Sun Will Resell Diligent De-Duplication

A slap in the face for FalconStor, as rumored agreement turns out to be true UPDATED 9/6 2:15 PM

September 4, 2007

4 Min Read
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Longstanding rumors have come true: Sun has announced it will bypass OEM FalconStor to offer data de-duplication to its customers via an agreement with Diligent. (See Diligent & the De-Dupe Rumor Mill and VTL Vendors Ponder De-Dupe.)

Directly and through its channel, Sun will resell Diligent's ProtecTIER suite of in-line data de-duplication software to customers with enterprise and mid-range configurations. The offering will be sold on request as part of Sun professional services engagements. Support will come directly from Diligent or through Sun.

The arrangement is not exclusive for either vendor.

The news is a slap in the face to FalconStor, which has a close OEM relationship with Sun. Indeed, Sun's recently announced VTL Value system, the first storage system based on the Sun X4500 "Thumper" platform, employs FalconStor VTL software.

Now, Sun customers will have two choices: the X4500 with FalconStor-based VTL Value and no de-duplication; or the X4500 with Diligent's ProtecTIER, which also has a VTL interface and offers de-duplication.This state of affairs puts Diligent's VTL in direct competition with Sun's FalconStor-based VTL.

Diligent won't offer a file system interface, which presents an alternative to a VTL-only connection, until the end of 2008, officials state.

FalconStor's Single Instance Repository (SIR) de-duplication isn't part of Sun's VTL offering, and it hasn't caught on with a couple of other big OEMs either, notably EMC and IBM.

Part of the reason, sources say, is that the SIR feature runs on a server attached to the VTL, instead of integrated within it, and SIR de-duplicates data after it has been backed up. Both of these features are perceived in some quarters as less scaleable than using de-duplication in-line, before backup data is committed to disk.

Scaleability and VTL interfaces are particularly important to high-end enterprise customers, sources say, because those organizations typically still use tape for sizable routine backups, usually totaling 10 Tbytes or more nightly.Despite the criticism of its SIR, FalconStor claims a 30:1 data reduction ratio for the feature. Diligent, in contrast, claims 25:1. Also, FalconStor has stated that it plans a new VTL and fresh de-dupe approach in the near future.

Sun plans to use that new version of SIR. While FalconStor refuses to comment on the situation, and Sun's initial response was cryptic, in a blog on September 5, Nigel Dessau, SVP for storage marketing and business operations at Sun, had this to say:

  • The Diligent relationship does not change Sun's commitment to its relationship with FalconStor or the current Sun StorageTek-branded VTL roadmap. The Sun VTL roadmap integrates FalconStor base software with Sun software and hardware IP into an end-to-end Sun-tested and manufactured solution. The agreement with Diligent also does not change Sun's commitment to integrate FalconStor's de-duplication software (SIR) into the roadmap which we are working on with FalconStor.

Diligent's deal with Sun is not a rebranding deal but a resale arrangement, and its VTL will not work with FalconStor's. Therefore, Sun's message appears to be that it continues to push FalconStor's VTL, while clearly preferring Diligent's de-duplication -- at least until FalconStor comes up with something better.

It's a murky marketing situation, but analysts think Sun felt compelled to act. "The de-dupe window of opportunity is open now, and FalconStor doesn't yet have a proven offering. That doesn't mean that it won't in the future, and the risk for Sun is that it will end up confusing potential customers, but clearly Sun felt compelled to act sooner rather than later," states analyst Simon Robinson of the 451 Group.

"If Sun wants to muddy up the waters, being late to the VTL market with one provider, and then offering a mid-tier in-line interface from another one, there had better be a really good reason," says analyst David Russell of Gartner. That good reason, he believes, is that enterprise customers are clamoring for de-duplication and Sun didn't want to be caught short.Diligent CEO Doron Kempel says that Diligent and Sun share only a handful of customers to date, though a couple are very large. At least one, he notes, has over 2 Pbytes of storage under protection by Diligent, which given the vendor's de-dupe ratio, means there are more than 20 actual Pbytes being managed via Diligent and Sun.

To date, Diligent says it's got about 100 ProtecTIER customers, roughly one third of the vendor's total roster of about 300. Most takers are deploying at least ten ProtecTIER systems, and many have more than 30, Kempel says.

Sun's plan to resell Diligent software has two parts. For enterprise customers, ProteTIER software will be combined with Sun's Sun Fire X4600 modular server and the StorageTek 6000 storage arrays (which offer up to 168 Tbytes of storage). For midrange environments, Sun will offer ProtecTIER with the Sun Fire X4500 Data Server (the "Thumper" system, which offers up to 24 Tbytes in a 4U system).

Any solution is likely to be a six-figure option. For Diligent's software alone, customers could expect to pay more than $100,000 for a high-end configuration. For a midrange solution, software would cost about $30,000. Sun's hardware in either instance will be extra.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC)

  • Gartner Inc.

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.0

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