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Oracle GreenBytes acquisition likely more about flash than VDI

Analysts say Oracle acquired GreenBytes for its deduplication technology, which makes a good fit for a future all-flash array.

Oracle isn't providing much detail on its planned acquisition of storage-optimization software vendor Greenbytes, but analysts say it positions the Redwood Shores, California-based software giant to push into the all-flash array market, albeit later than some of its competitors.

Oracle disclosed the deal on a blurb on its website last week, saying technology from the Providence, Rhode Island-based startup can "enhance Oracle's ZFS storage appliances." Oracle officials declined additional comment on the acquisition, which is expected to close by July.

Greenbytes' file system is based on ZFS, the open source volume manager-file system developed by Sun Microsystems. Oracle acquired Sun in 2010. But Greenbytes' patented inline deduplication engine goes beyond the data reduction in ZFS.

The dedupe is what Oracle is after, according to 451 Group analyst Simon Robinson.

"That's the key to the deal for Oracle," Robinson said. "Deduplication is a basic requirement to get efficiency from flash, but Oracle does not have an all-flash array. So first off, this deal will boost the efficiency of Oracle's ZFS and existing ZFS storage appliances. Second, it could allow Oracle to move into the all-flash array space."

Robinson said it's generally accepted that dedupe is not the strong point of ZFS.

GreenBytes started out selling hybrid flash appliances for backup and archiving in 2009. It added an all-flash array called Solidarity in 2012 before abruptly pivoting to VDI later that year, launching its IO Offload Engine. A virtual storage appliance called vIO followed in 2013, also for VDI. "I can't see Oracle buying Greenbytes for the VDI space," Robinson said.

Another analyst said VDI could indeed be part of Oracle's long-range thinking. Absorbing Greenbytes enables Oracle to "be bold and expand into the virtualized desktop/virtualized client environment," said Ben Woo, the managing director of IT market research firm Neuralytix.

Woo serves on the advisory board at Greenbytes, but said he was not privy to details of the transaction.

Woo agreed with Robinson that Greenbytes' dedupe can help with any all-flash arrays planned by Oracle. "It naturally makes sense for Oracle to add capabilities to its flash strategy, particularly as it relates to capacity and performance," Woo said.

Robinson said Oracle could also use Greenbytes' dedupe in a disk backup appliance to complement its enterprise tape business.

Oracle's acquisition of Sun also brought it the StorageTek enterprise tape business. Sun acquired StorageTek in 2005. "Obviously there is a [backup] history there, a legacy on the StorageTek side," Robinson said of Oracle.

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