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Deduplication Gets More Face Time

Deduplication is being pushed front-and-center in enterprise storage by yet another vendor that claims the technology's potential benefits shouldn't be limited to backend, offline storage.

Not everyone agrees that deduplication -- that is, the process of scouring data archives to remove redundant information and shrink files -- is ready for a larger role in critical online storage. To date, most deduplication solutions have focused on the realm of data backup.

But two-year-old Ocarina Networks contends that "de-dupe" can help to cut costs and space requirements in online, primary data environments. Meanwhile, it believes security and file retrieval speeds won't be concerns when good policy management is put in place.

As a result, it's the latest to join a small group of vendors who view the process as a valuable data reduction tool.

Ocarina's rivals, NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP), Data Domain (NASDAQ: DDUP), Storewiz and FalconStor, feature technology that typically sits between users and file servers, or on the server itself.

Ocarina, meanwhile, takes a different route with its Optimizer appliance.

"We're not in the write path at all -- when customers write files, they go straight to the disk," Carter George, Ocarina's vice president of products, told InternetNews.com. "We come along later and optimize them. Because we post-process files after they've been written, we don't affect write performance at all."

That may prove a critical factor given that interest in de-dupe for primary storage is growing -- cautiously. Many industry observers still seem about the value of the technology, given the delicacy with which primary data storage must be handled. Activities like de-dupe can work in the online storage environment only if they don't cause data loss or corruption, or hinder retrieval performance.

Yet several analysts acknowledged that deduplication could prove useful in certain environments.

[cob:Pull_Quote]"Data reduction technologies like Ocarina, and those from EMC, Avamar, NetApp and Data Domain, as well, are transformational as they significantly reduce the capacity requirements for storage," said Dave Russell, a Gartner research vice president.

"That, in turn, leads to potentially significant cost and floor space reduction and as well as an improved overall quality of service, as more data can be stored on disk for longer periods of time," Russell told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.

Others are even more sanguine about the technology's promise.

Enterprise Strategy Group research analyst Heidi Biggar goes as far as stating that such tools "aren't just 'nice-to-haves,' they are becoming 'must haves.'"