Ocarina Shrinks Data, Storage Needs

Storage optimization vendor says its ECO System delivers 10:1 data reduction ratios

September 27, 2008

3 Min Read
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The explosion of data and storage, and the requirement that information be stored in an economical manner that allows for easy retrieval and recovery has fueled a boom in tools and tactics to compress, de-dupe, and generally reduce the amount that is being dumped on disk drives, tapes, and other types of storage systems.

Data reduction startup Ocarina Networks , which emerged from stealth mode earlier this year, has expanded its ECO System storage optimization offering with a host of new features and the ability to shrink a wider range of file types in order to appeal to more companies and industries. It promises to deliver a 10-to-1 reduction in the data footprint of files.

"We shrink things more than any other competing technology," boasted Carter George, vice president of products and technology, to Byte and Switch, "and we do it with your existing storage technology and processes. We work on the files you already have and on the technology you already have."

Ocarina takes a three-step ECO process to compress files. Carter says most files like email, photos, videos, music, and every document created in Microsoft Office are already compressed when they're saved, and it's hard to shrink files that have already been compressed. So Ocarina identifies a file type and decompresses it to its original raw format in a process it calls "Extract," which is done in the background and can be managed through policies. It then "Correlates" and checks to see if the data is duplicated so it can eliminate copies, such as a photo that is stored, then used in a PowerPoint presentation, and later used in a company white paper. Then it "Optimizes," using a content-aware compressor and more than 100 algorithms to shrink around 500 files types, and writes the de-duped and compressed data back to disk.

The compression appliance was originally targeted at online photo-sharing sites, but now includes a batch of new file types to serve the media and entertainment, oil and gas, and medical image archive markets. New features include one-step file migration and optimization, time-sequenced file versioning and viewing, and virtual global namespaces.Ocarina is competing in a market with a number of strong competitors, including Data Domain Inc. (Nasdaq: DDUP), NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD), and a host of others that offer data de-duplication. Larger storage vendors have, or will soon include, these optimization capabilities in their products, which will pose another challenge to Ocarina.

Gartner Research vice president David Russell says Ocarina's "secret sauce" is the ability to crack up proprietary and already compressed files and work its compression magic on a variety of raw formats: "A lot of vendors are already doing data de-duplication, but Ocarina is taking it a little bit further by being able to handle multiple workloads. The current state of the art in data de-duplication and data reduction is becoming compelling for users with a growing amount of data to store."

Advances in this area will be transformational, Russell believes, and the industry is just at the beginning of what it should able to accomplish in terms of shrinking data across all workloads. The challenge for these niche vendors, however, is whether they're offering a product or a feature that in the long run will be incorporated into larger storage systems. "The conventional trend in technology is that products like these end up as features," he says.

George understands that challenge and says Ocarina is prepared to go the partnership route. The company has inked deals with Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN) and expects to announce several more before year's end. "We're talking to every major file server vendor right now, and we're happy to be an arms merchant for storage vendors."

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