By Kevin Komiega
-- NetApp this week fired a shot across the respective bows of its competitors with the announcement that its V-Series family of storage virtualization controllers can now front-end primary storage systems from any vendor with virtualization and data de-duplication capabilities.
The V-Series product line already enables customers with non-NetApp storage systems to run the NetApp Data ONTAP 7G operating system. Now, the V-Series allows customers who have EMC, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), Hewlett-Packard (HP), or other storage systems to deploy NetApp de-duplication technology -- which is a free feature of ONTAP -- to reduce redundant copies of data on primary storage.
NetApp's A-SIS (Advanced-Single Instance Storage) de-duplication is capable of achieving de-duplication ratios of up to 20:1, with the possibility of even greater ratios over time.
"We believe that we are alone in the market in terms of being able to de-duplicate data on primary storage," says Chris Cummings, NetApp's senior director of data-protection solutions. "Other vendors are focused on de-duping backups and archives."
Claiming to be the sole vendor in the storage industry doing something -- the old "we don't really compete with anyone directly with this product" -- is usually standard vendor FUD. In this case, however, NetApp's claims may be on target, at least temporarily.
"It's an accurate claim today," says Stephanie Balaouras, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. "NetApp supports de-duplication across its entire family of FAS systems and is already talking about the benefits that de-duplication can provide not only in backup environments but also in virtualized server environments, virtualized desktop environments, home directories, file shares, etc. NetApp is ahead of the rest of the market today when it comes to expanding the value proposition of de-duplication beyond backup."
In fact, NetApp's customers are adopting de-dupe in droves. According to Cummings, de-duplication is one of the fastest adopted technologies in the company's history with more than 2,500 customers "turning on" the de-duplication feature in ONTAP on more than 10,000 NetApp storage systems to date.
Along with the V-Series, all of NetApp's FAS and NearStore storage systems already have de-duplication. Cummings says all NetApp storage systems will include de-duplication technology by year-end.
Forrester's Balaouras says NetApp is out to establish market leadership not only in de-duplication, which she deems "one of the most important disruptive technologies in storage," but also in the "greening" of the data center.
"With many data centers out of power and space, the more you can make a difference with a proven set of technologies and case studies, you can become more than just a storage supplier; you can become a strategic partner for customers," says Balaouras. "Plus, adoption of heterogeneous storage virtualization has never really reached an expanding market phase in large part because of the dizzying number of approaches and the lack of robust functionality in the virtualization layer. Adding de-dupe might convince some customers to finally do it, but moreso it really puts the other storage vendors on notice."