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Riverbed preps primary storage dedupe device

Riverbed took the wraps off what it previously described as its “data center product” Monday, unveiling its Atlas primary data deduplication device at its financial analyst conference well before it will be available for customers.

Atlas will use the deduplication technology Riverbed employs in its Steelhead WAN optimization products to shrink primary data. Although the product is just entering alpha and won’t be available until next year, Riverbed execs have been giving reporters and analysts a peak into the technology.

Unlike current deduplication products on the market, Atlas will be able to dedupe data across files, volumes and namespaces, Riverbed marketing SVP Eric Wolford said. Atlas will originally support CIFS, but Wolford said it will eventually work with all file data and then extend to non-file data via iSCSI two or three years down the road.

Atlas sits alongside Riverbed’s Steelhead appliances in the data center, in front of NAS file servers. It would typically be used in high availability clusters. One or more Steelhead devices are required for Atlas.

All WAN optimization devices use deduplication to shrink data, but none have disclosed plans to use that technology on primary data yet.

“I haven’t heard of any other vendor doing this,” Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala said. “It’s a logical follow-on to what they already do. They probably got themselves a one-to-two year head start.”

Most deduplication products today are used for backing up data, although NetApp licenses its dedupe for free for primary data. Because Atlas can further shrink data already deduped, Wolford says Atlas can either compete or complement NetApp’s deduplication.

But Atlas may be a few years from mainstream. Wolford admits it might take customers years to get used to the idea of adding another device in the network. While Riverbed may eventually add Atlas’ capabilities right into Steelhead, the first version will be a separate device.

“There are people who are going to be nervous about this and want to wait two or three years,” Wolford said.

He says by offering separate appliances, Riverbed customers can scale to different types of workloads by adding Steelheads or Atlases.

No pricing is available yet. “This isn’t a product launch,” Wolford says. “We’re just starting an Alpha program.”

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