Users weigh de-dupe options

By Kevin Komiega

 -- End users are raising the level of conversation around data de-duplication from one of performance and data-reduction ratios to a discussion about data integrity, recoverability and ease of use, according to research from TechValidate.

The research shows that IT professionals are open-minded regarding how they evaluate compression and de-duplication technologies either as new standalone products or as features of their existing storage infrastructure. 

TechValidate's research data is compiled through a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application that combines elements of mediated social networking, market research, and automation to allow IT professionals to anonymously share hands-on experiences with others. TechValidate uses the SaaS platform to collect and verify IT deployment details from a community of more than 18,000 IT professionals and 30 participating IT vendors.

According to TechValidate, "new entrant" vendors such as Data Domain and Sepaton have made strong market cases for a ground-up, integrated approach to data de-duplication, but vendors such as NetApp and Quantum clearly are making the argument for de-dupe as a feature of existing product lines.

TechValidate's research shows that 46% of the end users surveyed say they prefer to buy de-duplication as a new feature for legacy storage, while 44% say they want it in the form of a new, standalone product. The remaining 10% are undecided.

The research also reveals that most IT professionals (75%) want de-duplication in hardware, whether as a feature of their disk array or in the form of an appliance, rather than in software such as backup applications. Of those IT pros that identified software as their preferred approach for de-duplication, "architectural issues" was identified as a top reason. For IT professionals desiring a hardware or appliance-based approach, "ease of management" was noted as their top rationale.

It is no secret that vendors are scrambling to extend de-duplication across their product lines through in-house development or, in many cases, by collaborating with other vendors.

Several storage suppliers have made news in the de-duplication arena in the past couple months. Dell raised some eyebrows by officially inking a deal with Quantum and EMC 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.

De-duplication frontrunner Data Domain announced a partnership with file virtualization vendor F5 Networks to co-market a jointly developed de-duplication system that automates the movement of static and archive data from expensive primary storage to a lower cost secondary storage tier.

NetApp also increased its presence in the de-duplication market by making the technology available on its family of virtual tape libraries (VTLs). The addition of de-dupe to the VTLs represents the final piece of the puzzle for NetApp as it now offers de-duplication as a free feature on its backup, archive, and primary storage platforms. NetApp claims more than 16,000 systems deployed with de-duplication in 3,500 customer environments.

It could be that offering de-dupe as a free feature of its operating system has been the key to NetApp's initial success. Regardless of the implementation, the market is now educated and users are beyond the noise of de-duplication ratios and the post-processing versus inline argument. TechValidate CEO Brad O'Neill says the de-duplication market is showing significant signs of maturation as users move beyond the tire-kicking stage.

"The vast majority of end users are concerned with how well de-dupe technologies will integrate with their environments," says O'Neill. "They're also looking at how to deploy it in a scalable way and have concerns about data integrity and recoverability. These top concerns indicate that we are moving into a mature phase of the technology and its adoption."

In fact, more than 50% of all surveyed respondents list preservation and assured access to data as key considerations, followed by integration with the existing infrastructure. Performance and scalability are, surprisingly, lower on the list of concerns. The bottom line, according to O'Neill, is that IT professionals expect to see evidence that de-duplication solutions are reliable and preserve existing environments and workflows.

 "The expectation in the customer base now is that every major vendor is addressing de-duplication in some way," says O'Neill. "Users will look for it as a feature of their existing products or as a standalone appliance. It's becoming trench warfare for the vendors."

Related articles:
Users react to de-duplication deals
De-dupe inches into VTL backup
Dell inks de-dupe deal with Quantum, EMC

This article was originally published on November 26, 2008