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Are storage vendors squeezing dedupe?

As the first vendor to make data deduplication a key piece of the backup picture, Data Domain has benefitted most from the dedupe craze. And now it has the most at stake when deduplication becomes mainstream. If all the major storage vendors offer deduplication, there goes at least part of Data Domain’s edge.

That’s not lost on Data Domain CEO Frank Slootman. He sees NetApp’s decision to build deduplication into its operating system and use it for primary data, and the move by other large disk and tape vendors to put dedupe into their virtual tape libraries as part of a strategy to marginalize the technology.

“NetApp’s and EMC’s fundamental strategy is to make deduplication go away as a separate technology,” Slootman said “NetApp has been giving away their deduplication, and we think EMC [through an OEM deal with Quantum] will fully charge for storage but give away dedupe. They don’t want dedupe to be a separate business, or even a technology in its own right.”

Slootman says he’s not worried, though. He sees the biggest benefit of deduplication as an alternative to VTLs, and claims many new Data Domain customers use deduplication to replace virtual tape rather than enhance it. He calls deduplication for VTLs a “bolt-on” technology, where Data Domain built its appliances specifically for dedupe.

And he maintains that deduplication doesn’t work for primary storage. It’s not a technical issue, but a strategic one.

“Primary data lives for short periods of time, why dedupe that?” he said. “It doesn’t live long enough to get any benefit to reducing its size. If data doesn’t mutate, it should be spun off primary storage anyway. It should go to cheaper storage. It’s the stuff that doesn’t change that mounts a huge challenge for data centers. You can’t throw it away, and it’s expensive to keep online.”

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