The recent announcements of general purpose data deduplication from NetApp and IBM as well as EMC's for virtual tape, and Hitachi's announcement of thin provisioning raise questions about which of these technologies will have the greatest impact and where do they fit in vendor roadmaps. At a recent Wikibon Peer Incite meeting, one participant suggested that data deduplication would have a greater impact on the market than thin provisioning which catalyzed this professional alert.
Given that both data deduplication and thin provisioning promise substantial (20 - 40%+) improvements in storage capacity utilization, it seems both arguments have merit. So where should vendors (and users) place technology bets?
Data deduplication is best suited for applications that move predominantly the same data frequently (like daily backups) where there's a high degree of repetitiveness in copying data that doesn't change often. The combination of low cost disk and technologies like data deduplication make the prospects for onsite backup and restore on tape look pretty dim. More often users are going to find that if they want to get to data, it better be on disk. This makes the prospects for data deduplication seem quite attractive and tape vendors, which are unable to exploit today's data deduplication designs, had better flee to compliance, fixed content and offline archiving markets sooner rather than later.
The picture for thin provisioning is in some ways more intriguing. While the sheer volume of candidates for thin provisioning may be less than data deduplication, over time, high value data will be a predominent target for this technology. This in some ways makes thin provisioning more sexy. But the longer term benefits of thin provisioning have the potential to dramatically alter and improve the relationship between IT and business lines in terms of making storage consumption more transparent. This transformative aspect of thin provisioning could bring substantial competitive advantage to vendors and pay added dividends in terms of greater application service levels.
Action Item: Storage vendors should support the rapid adoption of technologies like data deduplication and thin provisioning by making best practice education a top priority. Rather than simply touting the death of tape (in the case of de-dupe) or thin provisioning everywhere, leading suppliers need to educate users on where the technologies fit, where they don't, what caveats exist and how to work around them. This approach will provide a much stronger foundation for emerging technologies and reduce backlash downstream.