Storage Informer
Storage Informer

EMC Makes Surprise Play for Data Domain

by on Jun.01, 2009, under Storage

EMC Makes Surprise Play for Data Domain

EMC logo EMC Makes Surprise Play for Data Domain

Never a dull moment … EMC just announced our offer for Data Domain. You can read the full press release here. I’m sure – like any other acquisition move – there will be a healthy amount of speculation around the…

Never a dull moment …

EMC just announced our offer for Data Domain.  You can read the full press release here.

I’m sure – like any other acquisition move – there will be a healthy amount of speculation around the motives.

While it’s always fun to read what different people think, I thought I’d offer up my personal perspective as to the rationale for this move.

And it might not be what you think.

No Question – Data Dedupe Is Big

There are certain waves that come through the storage industry that are really big. 

From a storage perspective, the real action is at both ends of the storage media spectrum: making storage capacity go really fast (think enterprise flash drives) – and making storage capacity really cheap (think data deduplication, spin down, etc.).  

And you’ve seen EMC invest in leading in these categories in the past – nothing new here – e.g. EMC first to market with enterprise flash, leadership in client-side dedupe backup (Avamar), spin-down in the CLARiiON family, etc.

Once a vendor such as EMC has a very broad range of these storage media choices in their portfolio, the “secret sauce” becomes the orchestration layer: in this case, having various frameworks that can automatically put the right information on the right media at the right time.

One visible example of this “orchestration” technology is the recently announced FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering), which makes those underlying different storage types all the more valuable to EMC and our customers.  What makes FAST interesting is that it optimizes the placement of arbitrary storage workloads on different media types – including, presumably, a wide range of data deduplication technologies over time.

More EMC examples of this kind of orchestration software already exist in the EMC portfolio: backup software, archiving software, replication software, content management software, etc. – any software layer that’s smart enough to automatically put storage objects where they belong without a lot of heavy lifting on the part of either the end user or IT.

And, given EMC’s extensive investment in both a wide range of storage target options and orchestration software layers, Data Domain’s dedupe technology is obviously worth more to EMC than it is to NetApp – because we’ve got some great places to plug it in. 

Not only does the thing being plugged in increase in value, everything else in the associated portfolio becomes more valuable as well.

Data Deduplication Everywhere!

The more you look at data reduction in all of its various forms, you start to realize that it can play just about everywhere in the extended storage stack: backups, archives, file systems, remote replication, remote caching, primary storage, etc. etc.  

There’s no single “best approach” simply because there are so many places where dedupe can be intelligently used.

Like “security” or “virtualization” or “encryption” or “management” – it’s just one of those concepts that – sooner or later – is going to show up just about everywhere in the infrastructure stack with dozens and dozens of interesting use cases. 

So, given that, it follows that having more different flavors of dedupe technology in your arsenal is a good thing – hence EMC’s interest in Data Domain as well as many other forms of compression, single instancing and data deduplication.

Is EMC Building A Portfolio?

Yes.  We do that with other technology areas as well.

For example, if you think was back to our initial Smarts acquisition, what we were really buying was core resource management technology – the real value was the framework.  Over the subsequent years, not only did we improve Smarts’ core capabilities, but we made a host of acquisitions to extend what the framework could do – Infra, Voyence and the more recent ConfigureSoft come to mind.

Sure, the fact that they were all individually cool products didn’t hurt – but the fact that they all integrated in a common orchestration layer – priceless.

If you look closely, you’ll see the same general EMC story playing out in security (RSA as the core with a constellation of acquisitions), content management (Documentum as the core), and a few other areas.

So, one way of thinking of this proposed acquisition is nothing more than EMC building out our data dedupe portfolio — and associated orchestation layers — in much the way as we’ve done before.

So, What Should People Think About This Move?

First, that EMC believes that data deduplication – in all of its various and sundry forms – is a very big deal to EMC, our customers and the industry as a whole. 

Second, you can see it as clear evidence that EMC is building a very broad portfolio of data deduplication technologies, just as we’ve done in other areas we think are very strategic.  It’s a feature that will show up everywhere over time.

Third, I’d encourage everyone to not only focus on the individual storage technologies (e.g. flash, dedupe, spin down, etc.) but the orchestrating layers that put the right information on the right service level at the right time.

People will speculate as to whether this is a good move or not, but – or whether the transaction will go through or not — but one thing is clear: EMC continues to show the courage of its convictions by investing in widening its current strategic lead in the storage marketplace.

And there’s no arguing about that!

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