Dell-Ocarina deal will alter landscape of primary storage deduplication

Dell's acquisition of Ocarina Networks will bring responses from other storage vendors looking to incorporate primary storage deduplication, as well as companies looking to supply that technology to major vendors.

Dell Inc.'s acquisition of Ocarina Networks last week will sharpen the focus on primary storage deduplication over the coming months, and might alter the timeframe for when these products start hitting the market and what they will look like when they do.

The acquisition – industry sources say Dell paid approximately $150 million for Ocarina – gives Dell control of one of a handful of independent developers of deduplication technology for primary storage and removes a major vendor from consideration for the other suppliers out there. Now that list of suppliers includes Permabit Technology Corp. and Storwize Inc. unless Dell continues some of the partnerships Ocarina has been working on.

Permabit has developed the Albireo primary deduplication product specifically for storage vendors to embed into their systems, similar to the OEM product Ocarina developed that made it attractive to Dell. Storwize is adding block support to its primary compression software.

"What it's done is put even more urgency into the marketplace," said Permabit CEO Tom Cook of the Dell-Ocarina deal. "Some storage OEMs who a year ago said they didn't see a need for this are now saying, 'Let's get back and talk again.' By 2012, primary dedupe will be a necessity in storage systems."

Primary data deduplication won't only show up in storage systems. Dell, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. and perhaps IBM will likely add it to servers, and even one host bus adapter (HBA) vendor is considering adding dedupe to its products.

Here's a look at how Dell's deal may affect other major storage vendors, including some who have already launched or previewed data deduplication products for primary storage:

EMC Corp. Dell didn't buy Ocarina to use it with the EMC storage platforms it sells, so the acquisition will bring a further divergence in the portfolios of these long-time partners. EMC has its own answer for data reduction of primary storage. It previewed block-level compression for Clariion and Celerra in May, and last week EMC executives said that capability would be shipping in coming weeks.

Emulex Corp. Industry sources say Emulex has been working with Ocarina to add data deduplication to its HBAs, especially its OneSecure adapter with encryption. This is another case where Dell may continue that development if it does not consider the product competitive to its own portfolio.

Hewlett-Packard. Last month HP launched its StoreOnce deduplication software for its disk backup platform with plans to deliver it on application servers and scale-out NAS over the next year. HP Labs developed StoreOnce.

Hitachi Data Systems. Hitachi Data Systems has an OEM deal with NAS vendor BlueArc Corp., which partners with Ocarina for file-level deduplication. Ocarina had been working with BlueArc to expand those capabilities as well as with Hitachi Data Systems to add data deduplication to its Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) cloud storage offering. Because Dell and HDS rarely compete head-to-head in the market, Dell may continue Ocarina's relationship with Hitachi Data Systems and BlueArc.

IBM. Talk about IBM acquiring Storwize has faded, but that doesn't mean IBM won't partner with Storwize for block-based primary compression. IBM already sells NetApp storage with primary dedupe, and its midrange storage array OEM partner LSI Corp. is believed to be working on primary dedupe for its systems, possibly in partnership with Permabit.

NetApp. NetApp has offered data deduplication for primary storage for three years, but will have to address some of its limitations because of increased competition on the way. NetApp claims to be working on adding deduplication across volumes as well as expanding the 16 TB volume limit it now supports.

Oracle Corp. Expect Oracle to start talking up the block-level deduplication that Sun built into its ZFS late last year as Oracle was closing its acquisition of Sun. The Oracle Sun 7000 storage system is based on ZFS. Smaller vendors GreenBytes Inc. and Nexenta Systems Inc. also sell storage based on ZFS.

Symantec Corp./CommVault. Dell sells deduplication backup appliances using these vendors' software. Eventually, Dell will likely develop its own backup dedupe based on Ocarina. But will it continue to offer its current backup products?

Dave West, CommVault's vice president of marketing and business development, said his company has a future with Dell, especially after adding source-side dedupe in the next version of its Simpana software.

"We're going to grab data that sits on primary storage across EqualLogic and other storage platforms and then manage all the stored copies," West said. "We can manage across all tiers of data, including the cloud."

What will Dell's data deduplication story look like? 

As far as Dell goes, the vendor is faced with a juggling act with Ocarina plus its current dedupe offerings – it also sells EMC's Data Domain disk backup and other data deduplication products besides Symantec and CommVault.

Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group, said it would be smart for Dell to keep those other products for now.

"Dell may have a home run if it keeps the tools positioned with where their strengths are," he said. "For backup, they can use EMC Data Domain and Avamar, or CommVault or Quantum or Symantec, or any other backup-centric dedupe tools. And then they can leverage Ocarina for static, fixed content and other applications that would actually complement their Exanet [NAS] acquisition more than EqualLogic [iSCSI SAN platform]."

 

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