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Experts Share De-Dupe Insights

Data-deduplication may be grabbing the headlines, but analysts and users are urging a cautious approach to the much-hyped technology.

De-dupe, which aims to reduce the bulk of backed-up data by ensuring that the same information is not stored in two places, has prompted a product blitz from vendors in recent months. (See Quantum Intros GoVault, Top Storage Predictions for 2007, Insider: De-Dupe Demystified, ExaGrid Extends Backup Support, and EMC Talks Disk & De-Dupe.) At the same time, some users have deployed the technology as a way to control exploding data. (See Timecruiser and Users Look Ahead to 2007.)

Other potential adopters are confronted by a bewildering array of technologies and approaches to data reduction. Experts have a series of suggestions for navigating the maze:

  • Check the alternatives. Despite a blaze of publicity surrounding de-dupe, it does not fit all needs. "De-dupe is not the only solution for reducing data," says StorageIO Group analyst Greg Schulz, adding that users should consider other technologies for streamlining their data footprint.

    In particular, the analyst identifies data compression technology from the likes of Storewiz as a valid alternative. (See Storewiz Notches $9M, Storewiz Bolsters Compression, Storewiz Notches $9M, and Stealthy Ocarina to Add Compression.) "Compression and compaction might give you a lower data reduction ratio than de-dupe, but it will give you that ratio consistently," he says, explaining that users can typically get a more reliable level of performance from compression.

    And Storewiz also reduces the bulk of primary storage, not just backup. Still, it touts compression ratios between 2:1 and 5:1, depending on the type of data and application, compared to ratios anywhere between 20:1 and 50:1 for de-duplication. (See Storewiz Bolsters Compression, Storewiz Intros Product Line, Sepaton Adds De-Dupe to VTL, and Analysis: Data De-Duping.)

  • Assess your needs. Before considering de-duplication, users should think seriously about what they are looking to achieve. Will de-duplication be used for backup, for archiving, or both? It may also help to have some uniformity in the data itself before considering de-dupe, according to Schulz. "The key to de-dupe is having the same or similar data," he says, explaining that data with a lot of duplicate information, such as names and addresses, is the easiest to shrink.
  • Choose a vehicle. Vendors are currently touting a diverse set of de-duplication technologies, using both hardware and software. Data Domain and Quantum, for example, use specialized de-dupe appliances, whereas Asigra and Avamar, now part of EMC, offer a software-based approach. (See Quantum to Offer De-Dupe Duo, Asigra Protects Consultancy, and EMC Picks Up Avamar.) A third group of vendors, which includes FalconStor and Sepaton, use a VTL for de-duplicating data. (See FalconStor Picked by Publisher, FalconStor Goes Nordic, and FalconStor Extends VTL.)
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