EMC To Buy Data De-Dupe Vendor Avamar


EMC on Wednesday said it's acquiring data de-duplication vendor Avamar in a $165 million cash deal.

The deal is expected to close within 30 days. Irvine, Calif.-based Avamar is one of a growing number of developers of data de-duplication technology. Also called "data de-dupe," it removes duplicate information as data is backed up or archived. It can be done on the file level, where duplicate files are replaced with a marker pointing to one copy of the file, or at the sub-file level or byte level, where duplicate bytes of data are removed, resulting in a decrease in storage capacity requirements of several magnitudes.

Avamar brings to EMC a disruptive technology that, like the advent of using low-cost SATA drives as a backup target in place of tape, will impact how customers will handle the backup and recovery of data, said Mark Lewis, executive vice president and chief development officer at EMC, Hopkinton, Mass.

De-dupe is a great cost leveler between disk and tape, Lewis said. "So the question of whether to do disk-based data protection or tape-based protection changes," he said. "You can have disk-based protection at a lower cost. Over time, disk-based solutions will cost less than tape."

Avamar brings EMC two key de-dupe technologies, Lewis said. First, it goes to the sub-file level to eliminate duplicate data in a granular fashion to compress that data by 300:1 or more, he said. It also does de-dupe at the edge of the network, eliminating duplicate data before being passed across a network and cutting the bandwidth required to pass that data.

The acquisition is a great move for EMC and Avamar, as well as for the other vendors in the space, including market leader Data Domain, said Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider partner of both vendors.

"This takes away any question of the viability of Avamar in the long term," Teter said. "And this helps Data Domain. It's like the field is left to a fight between Pepsi vs. Coke."

It's hard to directly compare Santa Clara, Calif.-based Data Domain and Avamar and some of the other companies -- most of which are startups but include such heavyweights as Symantec with its PureDisk offering -- because de-dupe technologies fall into three categories, said Frank Slootman, president and CEO of Data Domain.

Data Domain and some other vendors do de-dupe as part of a data backup storage appliance that sits on a company's network as if it were an NAS or SAN array, Slootman said. Other companies like Riverbed handle de-dupe in the network. Avamar makes de-dupe an integrated part of a data protection application.

Data Domain fits into current storage infrastructure and works transparently to de-dupe data that's backed up to the Data Domain appliance, Slootman said. Avamar's Axion software, on the other hand, requires that a customer replace an existing data protection application like IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager or Symantec's NetBackup with the company's application.
"Because Avamar sells backup software, it faces an incumbent," Slootman said. "That's very difficult to do. There's a lot of 'stickiness' in this space. It's very difficult to get a customer to rip out an existing application. With Data Domain, customers don't need to displace anything."

Jedidiah Yueh, co-founder of Avamar, said the Avamar advantage comes from the fact that it's integrated within a data protection application. Axion de-dupes, protects and replicates the customer data and the related metadata so that, if data must be recovered, it can be done without the need to remount the backup server, which is the case with Data Domain, Yueh said. Axion also allows the taking and mounting of data snapshots.

Teter, who works with Avamar and Diligent Technologies, a Framingham, Mass.-based vendor of de-dupe storage appliances, said there's room in the market for both technologies.

However, despite having sold the Avamar solution to several customers, most of whom had already deployed EMC storage, Teter agreed with Slootman about the difficulty of displacing a customer's current data protection software.

"It's a challenge to go in and say to the customer, 'I've eliminated the need for Tivoli Storage Manager or NetBackup,' " he said.

Even so, Teter said the Avamar software is easy to work with, and backup and recovery functions can be accessed by clicking a few buttons on a screen.

"And Avamar is a great door-knocker for customers," he said. "We can go into any environment, whether Hewlett-Packard or EMC or IBM, and sell Avamar's backup and recovery solution. We might not have originally sold into those accounts, but this will get us in the door."

The Avamar technology also brings security and compliance technologies to customers, Lewis said. "Today, a lot of people still ship and store tapes," he said. "With Avamar, they can back up the data with encryption to the core and can use it in appliance-fashion to backup, restore and classify the data for compliance purposes."

EMC plans to keep the Avamar technology as a stand-alone product but will add some EMC intellectual property to it, Lewis said.

EMC's NetWorker data protection software, with which Avamar's Axion competes to some extent, has done well for EMC but could eventually be impacted to Axion, according to Lewis. "NetWorker has done well in its space," he said. "But what we saw coming in this space, and what we expected in this space, was disruptive technology. And Avamar is the disruptive technology."

EMC doesn't expect a fast shift from NetWorker and tape backups to Axion, Lewis said.

"Even though you know that something will be big or disruptive, it won't happen overnight," he said. "This is a way for us to shake up a market that has been in the doldrums -- and an area where people haven't been happy with for a decade. Tape backup is an area where no one is satisfied, not with the product, but with the process."

Yueh said Avamar has about 20 solution providers, all of which can join EMC's Velocity channel program next year.

Lewis said those partners won't need to be recertified for the Avamar products but will need to get certified for any other EMC products they may wish to sell.

EMC is the latest vendor to acquire de-dupe technology. Quantum last year acquired ADIC, which previously acquired de-dupe technology developer Rocksoft. Quantum is planning to unveil the first de-dupe products from Rocksoft in the near future.