Dedupe Arrives on the Mainframe

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Adding deduplication to the mainframe may seem like a no-brainer to some, so why has it taken so long for an integrated system to show up?

IBM this week unveiled a new dedupe gateway, the TS7680 ProtecTIER for the System z platform, which the company says can trim storage loads some 90 percent before heading into the storage array. Based on technology developed by Dilligent Technologies, which was folded into IBM nearly two years ago, the system can turn 25 TB of tape application data down to 1 TB, according to internal test results. That would be a godsend to mainframe users buckling under crushing data loads.

The device fits well with the new TS7530 mainframe Virtual Tape Recorder (VTL) and works directly with existing Z/OS backup processes. A single gateway can handle up to 1 PB of VTL storage, with dual clustering support for a maximum of 2 PB.

There are several mainframe dedupe products on the market, although this is the first one to be integrated directly from a mainframe manufacturer. A company called Shoden makes the QuickRecover system based on Data Domain's technology, while Bus-Tek uses the Sepaton S2100-ES2 system as its dedupe component.

An obvious contender for a dedupe-enhanced mainframe product would be EMC. It no doubt is looking for ways to leverage all that technology from Data Domain, and companies like Shoden have already shown how it can be applied to a VTL. And besides, it probably won't be long before we see integrated dedupe from Oracle or Fujitsu.

But EMC may view the mainframe market as an afterthought heading into 2010. As the company looks to the cloud as the next big frontier, top executives are eyeing prizes like global deduplication, which would form single-instance data files across multiple storage sites, accessible from anywhere in the world. Be on the lookout for something along those lines this summer.

It's not likely that we'll see a VLT solution from NetApp, either. Earlier this month, the company announced it will draw down its NearStore VTL program, effectively killing any chance of an inline dedupe system this year. Instead, the company has opted to concentrate on post-processing and primary systems for the FAS array. NetApp says the decision was a strategic one, having concluded that it can best focus on primary storage solutions rather than backup.

That leaves the field fairly wide open for IBM, at least for the moment. The company has stuck with mainframe solutions during waves of mass distribution, and looks set to continue that practice even is the cloud pushes IT capabilities past the data center walls.

But even IBM knows that big iron will only find adherents if it can demonstrate capacity- and power-saving capabilities of its own. 90:1 deduplication certainly answers that challenge.