EMC shutters Atmos Online after long struggle to find the point

After two years of muddling along, EMC has closed the commercial services arm of Atmos Online, its cloud storage service, but will continue selling the technology it is based on.

Storage giant EMC has shuttered its long-suffering cloud storage service, Atmos Online, in favor of selling the storage virtualization technology to service providers rather than competing with them.

According to a note on EMC's website, the public, customer-facing service hosted by EMC will be phased out pretty much immediately, and any users storing data on EMC's Atmos service will have no guarantees that their data will be available after a brief adjustment period.

I would not deduce anything about EMC's strategy on cloud from this move.
Jon Martin, director of product management at EMC's Cloud Infrastructure Group,

"As a result, we strongly encourage that you migrate any critical data or production workloads currently served via Atmos Online to one of our partners," the note said. The move apparently does not currently affect service providers using Atmos technology. There are three such providers: AT&T's Synaptic Storage, Hosted Solution's Stratus Cloud Storage and PEER 1's CloudOne service.

Analysts say the move is simply EMC doing the math and realizing it has more to gain from selling Atmos, generally viewed as a very good storage technology that can run on commodity hardware, than it does from trying to sell an online service.

"They were never going to out-scale someone like AT&T, they just don't have the bandwidth or the infrastructure capacity available," 451 Group storage analyst Henry Baltazar said.

EMC must have seen the writing on the wall, Baltazar added, and knew that it lacked expertise in hosting and delivering infrastructure online. It had initially pitched the Atmos Online as a demonstration that EMC could deliver a cloud technology, but if it looked like it might take serious business away from Atmos customers, it had to go.

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The company had also painted itself into a bit of a corner with Atmos Online, launching the service as it simultaneously pushed the Atmos software and support to customers at every level. Going against your own customers with an emerging technology just isn't wise at a certain point, Baltazar said.

Baltazar said he doesn't think that EMC nixing Atmos Online is much of a failure for EMC, although it may disappoint paying customers; it's just a reflection of the reality of EMC's business strengths right now.

"At the end of the day, they're making money selling systems," he said, "not services."

EMC's decision draws criticism
Others reacted more critically. Martin Glassborow, a UK-based IT practitioner, wrote on his StorageBod blog that dumping Atmos Online put EMC's strategy in doubt for its service-provider customers, as well.

"I wonder how well the other EMC Atmos-based services are doing and how much traction they are getting against S3?" he asked rhetorically.

Glassborow also pointed out that EMC also owns online storage providers Mozy and Iomega, so the company has no shortage of backup services to sell to consumers.

"We're going to focus our efforts on making our service providers successful," said Jon Martin, director of product management at EMC's Cloud Infrastructure Group. He said that the Atmos Online service had proved an effective demonstration tool and that the decision was based on EMC getting "pretty good traction with cloud storage service providers" with Atmos.

At the end of the day, [EMC]'s making money selling systems, not services.
Henry Baltazar, 451 Group storage analyst,

Martin said that EMC is helping Atmos Online's customers migrate to other Atmos-based services and said that they won't have to do much work to get up and running at AT&T or Hosted Solutions.

"Functionally, it behaves the same; it's the same API, the same technology," Martin said.

He also stressed that Atmos Online will remain open for users and will be free, but should be viewed as a test development and demonstration platform only. EMC won't give any service-level agreements or support for users, but if you have an Atmos Online account, it will remain viable.

EMC has not disclosed how many paying customers it had for Atmos Online beyond its partners and developers, but Martin said the number "was not insignificant." He said that Atmos sales would remain focused on software, but EMC would still offer its hardware bundles, and he added that this doesn't mean EMC is out of the online services business.

"I would not deduce anything about EMC's strategy on cloud from this move," Martin said.

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer for SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact him at cbrooks@techtarget.com.

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