IBM Buys Its Way Into Deduplication

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IBM also expressed hopes of retaining Diligent's extensive OEM roster.

"We aim to keep all those relationships intact, in particular the Hitachi arrangement," Messina said.

Still, it's unclear whether it will be smooth sailing for IBM, despite such assurances.

"For Diligent, this is a good move as it's now got a stable parent company -- but big parent companies also can bring some challenges," Russell said. "It will require a good support transition for IBM to come into those channels in the next year or so."

The Diligent buy marks the third storage-related acquisition for IBM this year. It purchased Israeli-based XIV in January, and announced last week its intention to buy FilesX, a maker of continuous data protection software.

IBM's Diligent buy reflects a storage industry trend that's gaining momentum this year, Russell said.

EMC is soon expected to announce a reseller deal with deduplication provider Quantum. According to Robert W. Baird & Co., the expectation is that EMC will couple the vendor's de-dupe technology with one of its own mid-range CLARiiON storage chassis for large-scale deduplication.

There have also been rampant rumors that EMC will acquire Quantum.

"At the star of the year, some of these two-letter vendors weren't even OEMing a deduplication technology -- much less owning one," Russell said. "I expect that by the end of this year, lots of them will have at least one solution, possibly two deduplication tools to offer."

The series of deals also means that all of the major players in high-end storage now have deduplication offerings.

"They all have their dancing cards filled and most have placed bets on which partner to bring in," said Diligent's Kempel, adding that while some vendors will offer more than one de-dupe solution, a majority of enterprises tend to want a single platform.

"It remains to be seen if other technology can play in datacenters, but deduplication is a complex domain and the opportunity is huge," he said.

That opportunity is tied not just into deduplication's promise of reducing storage needs, but also the fact that enterprises are feeling more secure about the technology now that it has thousands of deployments under its belt.

"It's catching on as it's becoming too compelling to ignore," Russell said. "The increasing number of adopters has reduced the risk some enterprises were worried about. The ability to save such money is dramatic."

A recent study of Fortune 1000 enterprises by researcher TheInfoPro reports that 56 percent of those surveyed spent more on data deduplication in 2007 than in 2006.

"The technology has not peaked, by any means," Russell added.

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