Data Reduction Options Multiply for Primary Storage

At Storage Networking World this week, Storwize, Hifn introduce data reduction products that promise a fast return on investment

April 7, 2009

4 Min Read
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This economy is presenting a challenge for storage administrators. They have to store, back up, and protect growing volumes of data and have been spending a growing percentage of the enterprise IT budget to accomplish that task. But, as the economy remains in a serious slump and companies are cutting their IT budgets, asking for more money for storage is rapidly becoming a non-option. Hence the attention on data reduction technologies such as compression and data de-duplication.

More data reduction options are being introduced this week at Storage Networking World in Orlando, including appliances from Storwize for compressing data for primary storage and hardware-based inline data de-duplication cards for primary storage from Hifn. These products are part of a new wave of data reduction products that are focusing on primary storage rather than vast stores on data in backup and archiving systems.

There are few storage products that offer a quick return on investment, but data reduction products are among those that can deliver on their promises to save IT dollars. Reducing the amount of data that has to be stored by eliminating redundant copies of duplicate data reduces the amount of storage capacity required for everyday tasks. While they may not be able to let you "stop buying storage," as one software company urges, they can lessen the need to keep adding more disks and tapes.

Storwize says its new line of data compression appliances perform 35 percent better than earlier versions and can write data at speeds of up to 800 Mbit/s. The STN-6000i Universal Capacity Optimization Appliance family, which includes three models starting at $35,000, can reduce file-based storage costs by 50 percent to 90 percent, the company says. It includes support for 10-Gigabit Ethernet and new software for reporting and management.

"Customers want to do data reduction across all tiers," says Peter Smails, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Storwize. "They want to cut costs and enhance performance and extend the life of their storage assets and increase utilization. We compress the data before it hits storage, which means you are sending less data to the filer and there are fewer and smaller I/Os and we make better use of cache." Storwize says its appliances can compress application data such as databases will work with gear from any NAS vendor.One customer, Bob Loreano, storage manager at online comparison shopping service Shopzilla, said in a statement that his Storwize appliance reduced data by 65 percent. "Storwize has had a significant and immediate impact on our storage and floor space costs, and delivered a great ROI," he said. "Storwize is the only capacity optimization solution we found that delivered the performance and availability required to deploy in our business-critical production environment."

Hifn is taking a very different approach, offering the BitWackr cards that work with Windows and intercepts data heading to disk and does block-level inline data de-duplication and compression. Future versions will work other operating systems. Hifn was recently bought by Exar and the deal is expected to close soon.

"This is ideal for the SMB market or smaller workgroup market where they are still buying servers and using them in the old-fashioned way. There isn't a de-dupe product for that market today," says John Matze, vice president of storage system products at Hifn/Exar. "We use a proprietary layout for how we put data on the disk so there is very little performance difference. NAS and SharePoint are areas where we can really help because they are less latency intensive."

The cards are being offered to systems integrators and computer makers for $995. They combine the company block-based data de-duplication software on a PCI-X or PCI-E card that includes specialized hardware to handle data compression and de-duplication hashing operations. It can be installed on any system running Windows Server 2003. General availability is expected in the third quarter.

"The benefits of reducing data are tangible and all the more relevant in this economic climate," Benjamin Woo, vice president for enterprise storage systems at research firm IDC, said in a statement. "Deduplication is a very attractive technology for this reason and Hifn has taken a new approach to it, which will enable a broader set of customers to reap the benefits of capacity optimization."InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the challenges around enterprise storage. Download the report here (registration required).

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