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Compellent fattens up for investors

Scale up, scale out - that's what it's all about

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Deduplication

Storage Centre software will support compression and dynamic block deduplication. Our understanding is that this will work on replays and run in the background, not working when data is written to disk for the first time. Instead, a background process will examine the multitude of blocks in replays, compress them, detect duplicates, and replace them with pointers.

Aszman said: "The majority of the data in a system will be in a Replay and we know how old it is and how active it is." Deduplication could come into play once a Replay was created. The deduplication will also work on the backup and archive product.

It will be Compellent-developed technology, with patent protection being pursued. Aszman said he had "an epiphany about a month ago" about how deduplication could be accomplished by Compellent.

In general we should expect a 2011 delivery for deduplication. Two wrinkles: volumes can be excluded from having their blocks deduplicated if necessary, and there will be multiple dedupe pools to enhance security. Compellent emphasizes that there will be no data-access performance impact from deduplication activities.

Concerning Compellent's addition of dedupe, John Rollason, NetApp's Product, Alliances and Solutions Marketing guy for EMEA, said: “NetApp … customers [have adopted] our deduplication across over 80,000 systems worldwide … at zero license cost. Customers can eliminate duplicate data across all tiers of storage, including primary storage.

"Deduplication technology is also available on NetApp V-Series [and] can be applied to storage systems manufactured by EMC, HP, Hitachi Data Systems, and others.” That's something Compellent is not offering to users of its 3,000 installed systems.

Portable Volumes

Compellent offers Portable Volumes - single USB-connected disk drives - as a way of preloading a remote replication target system with data. Apparently its customers want more, so the company is considering offering portable disk shelves with Fibre Channel or SAS links for the same purpose, but with much higher capacity.

Another development is to enable Portable Volumes to be read by Windows or Solaris systems. Kornfeld said: "The product is real. We will do it. It's just a case of which iteration and when."

Compellent said it may introduce the deduplication feature of ZFS into the zNAS product. It also said it had no intention to add object-storage capabilities, seeing no substantial demand among its customer base.

The net effect of these roadmap features, deliverable in the next 12 - 18 months or so, should be that Compellent will get a greater share of its customers' IT spend and have its products appeal to a wider range of customers. The scale-out, deduplication, backup, and archive features should increase its attractiveness to enterprise customers, and bring it into greater competition with all the other suppliers to those businesses.

For Compellent to become an investors' sweetheart again, though, the firm will have to avoid future failures in sales execution as well as deliver on the technologies in its roadmap. That's a multi-month - maybe multi-year - endeavour. ®

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