De-duplication is quickly becoming the hot tool for handling one of the data center's toughest challenges: how to cut the amount of storage capacity required to deal with today's fast-growing mountains of data.
And despite being a mature technology, it is playing into the hands of the channel because it still requires a lot of solution provider evangelizing.
De-duplication, or "de-dupe," 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, and/or at the sub-file or byte level, where duplicate blocks of data are removed, resulting in a significant decrease in storage capacity requirements.
This will be the year that de-dupe becomes a reality for much of the storage market, said Scott Robinson, CTO of Datalink, a VAR in Minneapolis. "Last year, we were evangelizing it," he said. "This year, everybody's coming out with it. There will be a lot of confusion with the different algorithms and with compression ratios. And that's a great opportunity for VARs. Customers will need help sorting out the options."
Despite all the hype about de-dupe, customers are not yet proactively asking for it, said Ken Payne, chief technologist at Abba Technologies, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based solution provider. "Usually, I'm the one proposing it," he said. "The typical response is, 'Explain it to me.' Generally, it never gets through the first time. It takes a couple discussions to get them to understand."
But the opportunities for de-dupe are huge. Brian McCarthy, president and owner of Sencilo Solutions, a VAR in Lake Mary, Fla., said his company's total revenue last year was about $5 million, while this year it already has $7 million in potential de-dupe revenue opportunities alone. "We don't talk about 'de-dupe' early in our sales presentation," he said. "We instead talk about high levels of compression. The customer might ask [if] they can get 2:1 or 3:1. We say, 'No, on a bad day, maybe 10:1. Give us a couple hours, and we'll give you 10:1.' "
High-profile acquisitions of de-dupe developers by major storage vendors have helped highlight the technology.
EMC, which last fall acquired Avamar, is enhancing it with support for Oracle 10gR2 on all platforms and DB2 on 64-bit Windows, support for Windows virtual IP clustering for Exchange and SQL using Microsoft Windows Clustering Services, and retention of partial backup and replication jobs to allow them to restart if interrupted, a company spokesperson said.
Quantum, San Jose, Calif., just last month started shipping its first virtual tape libraries with de-dupe capabilities based on technology it received last summer when it acquired ADIC and currently is offering de-dupe spifs of $400 or $800 to solution providers.
Symantec, which in 2005 acquired its PureDisk de-dupe technology, this spring plans to integrate de-dupe with its Veritas Backup reporter and will add new disaster recovery enhancements and the ability to import data from PureDisk into its NetBackup data protection software.
Other major storage vendors have yet to disclose their de-dupe plans. Network Appliance is expected to unveil its strategy in the near future, while IBM is expected by many in the channel to adopt NetApp's technology under the terms of its OEM agreement.