A wealth of deduplication options

Factors to consider

Cost, performance, scalability and the deduplication domain are just a few of the considerations when evaluating deduplication in the backup process to determine whether a backup application's built-in dedupe capability or a feature built into a backup storage system will best serve your environment.

Cost. Presumably, an investment made in technology that can reduce storage capacity requirements by a factor of 20 will be easily justified. Is there an added fee to enable the feature whether it's a backup app capability or an "add-on" feature in a hardware device? Is an upgrade to a higher version or model required? Even if deduplication is standard in the product (hardware or software), what other cost implications are there for implementing it (e.g., will it require additional network, server or storage resources)?

Performance. Deduplication comes in all shapes and sizes as backup workloads have different requirements. Deduplication may be mixed and matched, taking advantage of features of both software and hardware products. Source-side dedupe in backup software may make the most sense for remote systems because it delivers greater network efficiency, while target-side approaches may make more sense for workloads with the most stringent backup windows.

Scalability. While deduplication should mitigate the need to expand storage capacity, the impact of growth on the dedupe environment

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should be thought through. You need to determine how easy or difficult it is to expand the deployed product, and if expansion will introduce silos of storage (and thereby limit deduplication) and increase management. And does scaling require a forklift upgrade or can it be achieved more seamlessly?

Deduplication domain. You also need to consider the scope of the deduplication effort. Will your dedupe effort be limited to the confines of a single container -- whether it's logical or physical -- or are your goals broader?

Such a wealth of deduplication options provides ample choices, but it can also lead to some confusion. Vendors have the opportunity to educate users about deduplication technology in general, and specifically how their own solutions approach the task. And you need to understand your backup environment and requirements before short-listing solutions. Vet the vendors and their products, check their references and, most importantly, test the products using your own data over several backup cycles.

BIO: Lauren Whitehouse is an analyst focusing on backup and recovery software and replication solutions at Enterprise Strategy Group, Milford, Mass.

This was first published in May 2009

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