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Dedupe in the Virtual/Cloud Era

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Despite the momentous changes taking place in the enterprise, one thing remains constant: the need for efficient, effective backup and recovery.

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In that vein, then, technologies like deduplication are in continual demand. Not only do they help preserve valuable storage capacity but they take pressure off network infrastructure as well, enabling greater performance across the entire data environment.

Dedupe’s value in advanced virtual and cloud architectures is evident in the fact that even massively scalable storage platforms like Stonefly’s Unified Scale Out Storage system employ it as a means to optimize storage processes. The company has integrated Permabit Technology’s Albireo system into the StoneFusion operating system to enable seamless dedupe without interfering with advanced SAN/NAS features like active/active clustering, mirroring, replication and thin provisioning. The combo will be available across StoneFly’s lines of physical appliances and virtual machine platforms where it can be utilized for either primary or backup storage applications.

And even though dedupe has been around for a while, it is still seeing a steady flow of new techniques designed to keep pace with the dynamic data environments currently under development. ExaGrid, for example, recently received its latest patent for a new zone-level approach that, unlike existing byte- or block-level methods, provides both seamless scalability and faster backup and restoration in complex architectures. The technology also supports leading backup applications, such as Acronis, CommVault, Simpana and ARCserve, as well as integrated systems from HP, IBM, Oracle, Symantec and VMware.

While dedupe is very effective at lessening data loads, it does suffer from one flaw: the need to “rehydrate” data and even virtual machines in order to bring them back into service. To that end, ExaGrid has turned to Veeam Software to provide virtual server data protection to provide full-data backups that can be up and running within minutes. A traditional dedupe recovery can take hours, which would put it past the recovery point objective (RPO) of most restoration programs. Under the ExaGrid/Veeam package, the enterprise maintains resource efficiency without sacrificing full restoration performance.

HP is also looking to ease the rehydration process, although its intent is to improve replication performance throughout disparate architectures. The company’s StoreOnce virtual storage appliance (VSA) provides multitenant backup-as-a-service and deduplication functions that allow data sets to be replicated anywhere in the data environment without having to rehydrate. In this way, the company is able to provide increasingly modularized storage solutions for software-defined storage architectures, as well as potential plug-in solutions for the company’s Project Moonshot server portfolio.

Dedupe has emerged as a vital tool as the enterprise seeks to fulfill increasing demands for better performance and smaller, more efficient footprints. But it is by no means a plug-and-play technology. Implementation must be conducted very carefully, followed by extensive performance testing to ensure data operations are not inhibited by the dedupe process, particularly when it comes to recovery systems.

Clearly, no one wants to provision more storage or greater network bandwidth than is needed, but neither do you want to be caught unawares should stakeholders start to wonder why their data environment is not running the way it is supposed to.

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