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Dell swallows deduping and compressing Ocarina

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Dell is buying Ocarina, the deduplication startup which compresses a multitude of supposedly incompressible image files and which has just announced a second and software-only deduplication product other suppliers can include in their storage product stacks.

Dell's deduplication strategy has resembled a roller coaster with several cars on the track. There was the notion of using Quantum's DXi technology when it was flavour of the month with EMC. That went out of the window when EMC bought Data Domain. Then Dell switched to having CommVault Simpana deduplication followed shortly afterwards by having Symantec deduplication. It then agreed to resell, or OEM, EMC's Data Domain products just a few weeks ago. It hinted at something going on with the Ocarina software when it supplied a supporting quote to an Ocarina announcement. And now it has messed that up by buying Ocarina. Dell's going to have some explaining to do to its customers.

Ocarina's content-aware file and image compression product is complementary to virtually all other dedupe products as it compresses specific image formats by recoding the data so as to not lose any visual information but need less space to store the image. However the software-only product is a general purpose unstructured data deduplication product and it does overlap with the CommVault and Symantec deduplication software products as well as the Data Domain products to some extent. The Data Domain products are focussed on the fast inline deduplication of backup data with yesterday's DD670 offering up to 5.4TB/hour bandwidth and the DD880 going even faster.

It's doubtful if the Ocarina software can compete with this dedupe speed king, so it looks like internal competition inside Dell just intensified for CommVault and Symantec.

Ocarina's software deduplication product competes with a similar one from Permabit. Tom Cook, CEO at Permabit, said: "Data optimization is on fire and today’s announcement shows Dell is serious about competing as a storage player. The industry is moving from 'bump in the wire' deduplication solutions to integrated capacity optimisation. Since we integrate tightly without compromising functionality, we're feeling pretty good right now."

"Bump in the wire" refers to having a special deduplication appliance, like the Data Domain products, sit behind storage arrays and dedupe backup data from them. The Ocarina and Permabit idea is to add the dedupe functionality directly to the storage array itself.

Ocarina's strategy to supply its technology as embeddable software to OEM customers may now be in tatters as few of the potential customers do not compete with Dell in some way. That's good news for Permabit.

Murli Thirumale, Ocarina Networks' CEO, said: “This is a great opportunity for the Ocarina technology, and for Ocarina customers and partners. Combining Ocarina’s capability with Dell’s leading storage portfolio, we plan to move the Ocarina solution well beyond what you’ve seen with other deduplication offerings to include ‘end-to-end’ optimisation. This brings deduplication to not only primary storage, but also to key storage workflows including backup, replication, migration and tiering.”

Hmm, tell us how this doesn't overlap with Data Domain, CommVault and Symantec, Murli.

Dell says: "Ocarina brings a leading deduplication capability to complement Dell’s EqualLogic solutions. Dell’s intent is to drive increased efficiency with a goal of radically reducing data management costs."

James Goss, VP Operations at Photobucket, said: "Ocarina solutions are reducing our storage footprint by over 40 per cent, over and above the existing JPEG compression, which is making a big impact on our storage and networking costs. I’m encouraged to see that Ocarina will now fit into my existing support structure with Dell and run on the same hardware already in my data centre. I look forward to seeing how Dell can leverage Ocarina into its existing and future storage products.” Yes, and so do Compellent, CommVault, EMC, Exanet, FalconStor, HP, IBM, Permabit, Quantum and Sepaton - in fact every other supplier of deduplication technology and products.

To add a little more spice to this potent mix BlueArc and HP have reseller deals with Ocarina. We certainly can't see the HP deal continuing.

Ocarina Networks was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in San Jose, making this a very fast process from startup to acquisition. Subject to customary closing conditions, Dell expects to complete the acquisition by the end of the month. After closing, Dell plans to maintain and invest in additional Ocarina engineering and sales capability. There are no plans to move the current operations. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

This is a highly strategic purchase by Dell and one which it has executed quickly and expertly. ®

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