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Dell buys Ocarina, plans dedupe across its storage portfolio

Dell bought its primary deduplication OEM partner Ocarina Networks today before it even integrated Ocarina’s technology into Dell storage.

Dell last month hinted at an OEM deal with Ocarina when a Dell storage executive was quoted in a press release Ocarina put out about its OEM product. Following the deal today, Dell product manager Brett Roscoe confirmed there was an OEM deal in the works but said Dell wanted more control over the dedupe technology.

Unlike Dell’s acquisition of EqualLogic in 2008, Dell isn’t getting a mature business with Ocarina. This was a pure technology buy, which highlights the importance storage vendors place on dedupe for primary data.

“We believe that deduplication is a key strategic pillar for storage going forward,” Roscoe said. “We started working with Ocarina some time ago, developing solutions around EqualLogic and other storage products. The more we worked with them, the more interesting they became.”

Dell did not disclose the price of the acquisition.

Although Roscoe wouldn’t discuss specific products, sources familiar with the Dell-Ocarina relationship say Dell was already working on integrating Ocarina’s dedupe in three products: EqualLogic iSCSI SANs, a scale-out NAS product it is developing from IP it picked up from Exanet this year, and a disk backup target. Dell currently OEMs dedupliation backup products from EMC Data Domain and software partners CommVault and Symantec.

Roscoe talked about dedupe for EqualLogic and for unstructured data, but wouldn’t get into using Ocarina for backup. “We’re going to look at all our opportunities,” he said. “There’s nothing specific around that now.”

The future of  Ocarina’s current shipping products — appliances aimed at reducing unstructured data — is unclear although Dell plans to sell and support the appliances until it can develop its own branded version and move the technology to other platforms.

Storage vendors are moving to incorporate technology in their storage systems to shrink primary data. NetApp has had dedupe for primary data for three years. Hewlett-Packard last month launched its StoreOnce deduplication for backup and primary data. IBM has been linked in a possible deal for data compression vendor Storwize, and EMC is planning on delievering compression for primary storage on its Clariion and Celerra platforms.

“We knew having IP in the deduplication space was going to be strategic for all Dell storage products going forward,” Roscoe said. “We believe we had to have the ability to build deudpe into our product set.”

Roscoe wouldn’t say how close Dell is to having dedupe in any storage products, but hinted that it’s not far off. “Let’s just say this isn’t a five-year project.”

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