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Data deduplication technology of growing interest to SMBs

A growing number of space- and cash-strapped SMBs are looking at data deduplication technology as a way of lowering storage costs and increasing server performance.

The emerging technology of data deduplication promises to give cash-strapped small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) an affordable way to move to disk-based data backup.

We're all aware of stories of tapes disappearing or falling off the back of transport trucks.

Heidi Biggar
analystEnterprise Strategy Group

The 451 Group, a New York-based research firm, has identified data deduplication as one of the hottest emerging segments in the storage and data protection industry.

"It's a technology that is applicable to just about any business, whether it's large or small, because backup itself is a highly redundant operation," said Simon Robinson, sector head for storage and systems at The 451 Group.

Data deduplication is a method of reducing storage requirements by eliminating redundant data. In a backup and recovery system, gigabytes of information will be stored over and over again at each backup, creating countless copies of data that might change only incrementally over time. With data deduplication, storage devices only store changes to that data. Redundant data is replaced with a pointer to the unique data copy.

According to a new survey of 100 organizations by The 451 Group, only 23% are using data deduplication in their backup and data protection infrastructure. However, 28% of nonadopters said they plan to use it within six months, and another 23% said they would adopt it within a year. Only 25% of nonadopters said they had no plans to use it. Eighty percent of organizations that had adopted the technology said it met or exceeded their expectations.

Although the survey looked at organizations of all sizes, Robinson said most of the early adopters of deduplicaton are in the small to midsized market because "there is a higher level of dissatisfaction with tape among that sized organization because it is so difficult to manage. Whereas, in bigger organizations there is more budget available and more established processes and products available."

Robinson said SMBs "in particular have been poorly served by incumbent technology. Tape backup is still a people-, time- and money-intensive activity. And the fact that tape is also unreliable and slow to restore from means many SMBs simply don't adequately protect their core data. So if they can back up to disk rather than tape, then it provides several strong benefits."

The problem for SMBs, Robinson said, is disk storage is still relatively expensive when compared to tape. The cost of disk capacity has dropped dramatically in recent years, but tape is still cheaper. Data deduplication means SMBs can get more storage capacity out of fewer hard drives, making the switch from tape to disk more economically feasible.

Many SMBs have turned to online backup service providers, which often leverage data deduplication technology to cut down on the amount of data that has to pass over the wires during backups. But many other SMBs are reluctant to entrust their data to a third party.

"Online backup services I think have had a little bit of a resurgence, but at the end of the day you can be throttled by restore times, especially if you've had a catastrophe or if you've got to restore your data over the wire," Amatruda said. "And there are concerns about having your data completely out of your hands. There is a certain comfort level you really have to have, and it's a leap of faith that they are going to safeguard your data as appropriately as you would."

Quantum Corp., a San Jose, Calif.-based vendor best known for its tape-based backup and recovery products, is banking on data deduplication with its new GoVault Data Protection Solution 1600, a removable-disk product aimed at SMBs.

"At the end of the day, especially in the entry-level, low-end space, tape and even some removable hard drive products use compression algorithms, but [Quantum is] bringing this data reduction concept down to a new set of customers. The concept of data compression is not new, but the concept of reducing redundant data truly is," said Robert Amatruda, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "My suspicion is that low-end customers will be attracted to that. Its value is to add more capacity without actually having to purchase more capacity."

Heidi Biggar, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said the data deduplication technology will reduce the amount of memory cartridges SMBs need to buy for the GoVault 1600. Also, it "improves backup performance since you're only storing changed data. Recovery can also be significantly faster," she said.

According to figures provided by Quantum, other removable-disk backup devices aimed at SMBs cost between 95 cents and $2.50 per gigabyte. By leveraging data deduplication on the GoVault 1600, Quantum is able to get that cost down to 10 cents per gigabyte. Finally, a disk-based product is cheaper than some of the leading tape-based products, according to Quantum, which claims tape devices aimed at SMBs run between 25 cents and $1.10 per gigabyte.

The GoVault Data Protection Solution 800 (2 x40GB Cartridge Solution) starts at $400. It replicates the backup to two cartridges so one can be kept on site and the other can be taken to another location. It's a Windows-based device packaged with data deduplication, encryption and disaster recovery software, and it comes with two removable cartridges with 40 GB of memory. Quantum said users can buy higher-capacity cartridges up to 160 GB.

Biggar said the encryption feature will give users "peace of mind."

"Removable-disk technologies like GoVault are pretty new. We're all aware of stories of tapes disappearing or falling off the back of transport trucks," she said.

Robinson said most major vendors are still working on integrating data deduplication into their product roadmaps. There is still a perception that the deduplication market is immature, despite the high levels of satisfaction users have with the technology.

"Deduplication has taken off a lot more quickly than companies expected," Robinson said. "So a lot of companies have been caught off guard a little bit, but we're seeing EMC moving into the space and Symantec moving there, too. It's only a matter of time before some of the other major players come into the market."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer

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