Dell has officially chosen Quantum and EMC as its running mates in the race for data de-duplication dominance. The company has announced that it will begin working with the two vendors to develop a single de-duplication architecture — based on Quantum’s technology — that will be used across Dell’s PowerVault, EqualLogic, and Dell/EMC product lines.

The rationale is that providing compatibility and a common de-duplication architecture will help Dell customers streamline their storage operations and free them up to deploy Dell systems while having the ability to replicate data to and from other Dell, EMC, or Quantum-based offerings.

The de-dupe and replication technology will provide so-called LAN- or WAN-efficient disaster recovery by only replicating and maintaining unique block-level data from backup or archive operations within or across sites.

Dell expects to begin shipping systems with the common de-dupe architecture in early 2009. The company also plans to offer assessment, design, and implementation services wrapped around the de-duplication technology.

According to a statement from Quantum, Dell will incorporate Quantum’s de-duplication and replication software into new products. The software is the same technology that is used in Quantum’s DXi7500 enterprise disk backup system and the software that EMC has incorporated into its DL3D and DL4000 products announced last May. The software includes NAS and VTL presentations, policy-based de-duplication that offers a choice between different de-dupe modes, and integrated tape creation.

“De-dupe is one feature specific to the [CommVault] Simpana version of the DL2000, but the solution is primarily focused on the backup-and-recovery challenges SMB customers face,” says Brett Roscoe, senior manager, Dell Storage. “The products Dell will be launching early next year will be target-based de-dupe offerings that support the highest ratio of de-dupe.”

Roscoe adds, “Since the products will leverage PowerVault, EqualLogic, and Dell/EMC, they’re ideally suited to scale up or down depending on the size of the customer.” He also says that teams from Dell, EMC, and Quantum will be working together “down the road” to develop features found in future de-dupe stacks.

The deal has raised some questions about Dell’s existing partnerships, including recently announced PowerVault DL2000 disk-based backup products that include software from CommVault and Symantec. Dell maintains that the Quantum deal is aimed at de-duplicating different parts of the storage infrastructure.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Lauren Whitehouse says Dell’s decision to standardize on Quantum’s de-dupe and replication technology is a win for Quantum, as the technology will likely end up in use across Dell’s entire storage portfolio, including its EqualLogic iSCSI SANs.

“Quantum has the most defensible de-dupe patents of the bunch and they’ve got a lot of flexibility with their software, such as NAS or VTL presentations, policy-based de-duplication, and integrated tape creation,” says Whitehouse. “Since Quantum is already a de-dupe supplier to EMC, the distinction is that Quantum de-dupe will get integrated with the EqualLogic storage systems.”

However, Whitehouse is curious about the direction of Dell’s PowerVault line because of Dell’s ties with CommVault and Symantec.

“Dell partners with both CommVault, which has software-based de-dupe, and Symantec, which will ultimately embed de-dupe,” says Whitehouse. “So what de-dupe prevails here?”