Hosting firms pushing remote management

Some IT services firms are taking a new tack by offering to remotely manage systems that are located in corporate data centers, instead of requiring them to be hosted elsewhere.

Managed services provider (MSP) Agiliti Inc. last week said it will monitor servers, networks and applications installed at customer sites. That followed a similar move earlier last month by IBM Corp., which announced a plan to remotely manage Web servers.

Andy Schroepfer, an analyst at Minneapolis-based market research firm Tier 1 Research Inc., said IBM and Agiliti are among the first in what he expects will be a wave of vendors to offer "facilities-free data center services" this year.

"Almost every MSP in the sector has been looking at doing this," he said.

According to Schroepfer, just 3 percent of U.S. companies currently outsource all or parts of their IT infrastructures. Therefore, there's "a huge opportunity" for companies such as St. Paul, Minn.-based Agiliti that offer management services without requiring customers to move their IT equipment to hosting facilities, he said.

The concept caught the attention of AHL Services Inc., an Arlington, Va.-based provider of marketing support services to large companies.

Agiliti recently began monitoring transactions and data that cross a wide-area network hub it houses for AHL to reach 25 "touch points" with the company's customers. Now, Agiliti will begin monitoring servers located in AHL's Twin Cities operations center.

AHL's desire to lower costs while retaining ownership of its equipment "played into our decision" to extend the relationship with Agiliti, said Mary Madryga, vice president of technology at AHL.

Madryga couldn't quantify the monthly cost savings she anticipates through the remote services agreement with Agiliti. But one of the benefits of the deal, she said, is that the remote monitoring services prevent AHL from "having to invest in infrastructure across our entire client base."

Pricing for Agiliti's services starts at $50 a month per device and increases based on the type of equipment and the level of service provided.

IBM's offering, called Services Anywhere, includes a variety of remote security, monitoring and storage management services for Web servers. Monthly fees will typically be about $25,000, IBM said.

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