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Dell plans to incorporate block-level de-duplication and SSD drives into its storage line-up, as it banks on the credit crunch to revive its rep amongst cost-conscious corporates.

Deduplication

Praveen Asthana, Dell's Director of Enterprise Storage, said that the DL2000 disk-to-disk (D2D) backup appliance is a good model for businesses - especially SMEs - with limited IT skills. Dell is looking, he said, at more self-contained solutions in the archiving and data management space.

Dell is looking at block-level de-duplication - the removal of repeated blocks or groups of blocks from a file. This is far more efficient with backup and similar data and has a higher degree of redundancy than single file instancing, which is what the DL2000 currently does in its CommVault Simpana form.

Simpana will get block-level de-duplication some time in 2009. So is Dell going to use some other de-duplication technology? "Yes." Asthana thinks de-duplication is "being absorbed more and more into software and even the operating system". Dell is probably going to use a software de-duplication technology.

He said that customers need compatibility across their portfolios, and that enterprise customers want branch offices to de-duplicate and replicate to the data centre and have compatibility across these de-duplication locations. The hint is that Dell is looking for a software de-duplication technology that applies to both branch offices and to data centres.

Quantum could be one possible supplier here.

Solid state drives

Asthana reckons: "Right now, SSD is a bleeding edge technology for external storage, given concerns with pricing, write speed and fidelity if you will ... [Customers] have not been knocking on our door. I don't think it's a big seller now.

"If you bring it closer and closer to the CPU it becomes more interesting. But it's not (SSD) prime time for general purpose applications."

There's no commitment here to following Compellent and adding SSD storage to Dell's PS Series iSCSI SAN storage. However, Dell could have servers on its roadmap with Fusion-io ioDrive SSDs in them, mini QuickSilvers perhaps. That Dell is an investor in Fusion-io supports this notion of bringing the SSDs closer to the processors and a concern for fidelity.

The economy

Dell thinks it's well placed in the current economic turmoil, as there is typically a drive towards bargains in such circumstances. Asthana says: "Now is a time to reaffirm Dell's values." Regarding iSCSI he says: "You can save a lot of money on fabric costs... [and] on management headcount" compared to Fibre Channel SANs. Also: "Most customers still need to put storage in. People are not going to stop sending e-mails."

Dell's lower-cost and more actionable outcome-focused consultancy services should have their appeal strengthened compared to the larger traditional consultancies, with their more expensive and longer-term engagements.

Asthana summed it up like this: "All the strategies we've been executing on - we don't have to change that at all. That's one of the reasons I'm feeling more bullish about the future." ®

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