The idea of utilizing computing power that's "Somewhere Out There," to borrow the title from the classic Linda Ronstadt-James Ingram song, is certainly not new, and certainly not the be-all and end-all in the computing world at this time—at least not yet.
But there are those who think its time has come and that the threshold has already been passed from the old box-computing model to the "cloud of services." Maybe it has, and The Station just hasn't recognized it yet, or maybe we're just getting a bit ahead of ourselves, as so many IT companies did in the late 1990s before they blew up in 2000 and 2001.
While lots of people are having this conversation quietly among themselves, Nirvanix CEO Patrick Harr, a bold-talking sort of guy, this week was one of the first CEOs to come out and say it. Of course, what he was saying was ... well, in a hyphenated word, self-serving. Nirvanix provides a managed data storage service called Storage Delivery Network, in which it takes compete charge of all a company's data.
"The box is dead," Harr declared on the company Web site. "There are too many hurdles to overcome, too much expense in purchasing and managing massive amounts of hardware, and too much complexity for companies to continue purchasing data storage appliances from the box vendors in order to build and support their own network infrastructures."
"It is also ushering in another idea that many would have thought unrealistic: the end of companies being forced, with no other option, into building and managing their own data centers for data storage."
Personally, The Station believes that a lot of data storage—especially financial, government, and personal records—will never be put into the hands of strangers located in some far away land. Can you imagine the FBI, the Pentagon, SAIC, Solomon Brothers, Lockheed Martin or the U.S. Treasury outsourcing their information? Do you think companies like Google, eBay, Yahoo and Amazon would ever allow outsiders to run their billion-dollar enterprises? Um, we think not.
Then again, there are plenty of instances when outsourcing business data storage makes all the sense in the world. Most retail and SMB storage falls into that category.
Companies like Nirvanix, CommVault, IBM's Arsenal, AmeriVault, Iron Mountain, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and others have the right idea, but few of them (Iron Mountain, in business since 1951, is the biggest exception here) have been around long enough to prove they have staying power. That's what banks, health-care providers, stock brokers, government agencies and large enterprises want to see; a sense of history so they can feel comfortable about how their data is being handled.
In the meantime, though, we think Harr might be popping off a little ahead of his time. And, as everybody knows, timing is pretty much everything.