A Decade of Data Domain

A decade has passed since Data Domain began selling its first appliance and started evangelizing the virtues of data deduplication as an enabling technology to reduce the torrents of backup data in data center environments. The term “deduplication” was not even remotely part of the common IT parlance back in 2003. Prior to that, disk was used only as a cache to tape backup systems called VTLs (virtual tape libraries). So successful was Data Domain and dedupe that the term VTL is almost unrecognizable in today’s IT nomenclature.

Four years after the company’s launch, however, the symbol “DDUP” scrolled across the Nasdaq ticker as Data Domain debuted as the first publicly traded company exclusively focused on backup data reduction technology. Two years after that, Data Domain was acquired by EMC for $2.4billion.

The Changing Role of Tape

What can account for such a meteoric rise of an emerging technology player in a relatively short 6-year window? Two words – backup pain. Prior to the advent of data deduplication, many organizations were struggling with their legacy tape infrastructure to reliably backup and off-site their business data in a timely, efficient and secure manner. Disk was seen as a way to ease these struggles, but even with its cost per GB plummeting in the late 90‘s, the gap in price between plain disk and tape was still too large to justify total tape elimination.

Deduplication was the enabling technology that allowed disk to replace tape for most, if not all backup data. While tape is not dead, its role certainly has changed. Tape is typically being used now more for long-term historical retention rather than as a primary recovery solution.

Lost Data – Lost Prestige

In addition to operational challenges, many organizations became acutely aware of the risks of shipping daily backup tapes off-site on courier vehicles, as encrypted tape had yet to be perfected. In fact during this time period, some large financial institutions and retail companies had to endure highly publicized, embarrassing public disclosures of lost tapes containing sensitive customer data.

The combination of these factors made Data Domain’s entry to the market very well timed. They were able to capitalize on the market’s lack of acceptance of virtual tape (D2D2T) architecture by introducing a backup to disk appliance of their own, with one key difference – A LOT less data would have to be flushed out to tape as the export of data to tape could be reduced to a quarterly or even an annual process.

Perhaps more importantly, through the efficient transfer of deduplicated data segments over private network links, organizations could discontinue the practice of transporting tapes on trucks and eliminate or minimize the risk of lost, mis-placed or stolen tapes containing sensitive business data.

The Acquisition

In July of 2009, a fierce bidding war for the right to purchase Data Domain took place between EMC and NetApp. When the dust finally settled, EMC rolled Data Domain into its backup and archive portfolio for $2.4 billion.

Interestingly, there was some measure of skepticism from those in the market that were of the opinion that EMC’s new acquisition would at best conflict with or at worst cannibalize revenue from their existing deduplication product – Avamar. In fact, the two proved to be complementary technologies and Avamar’s growth accelerated as EMC established a new dedicated backup and recovery division just after the acquisition to capitalize on the market opportunity.

Getting In-Line

Today, Data Domain comprises a large percentage of EMC’s 66% market share leadership in the Purpose Built Backup Appliance market. To be sure, first mover advantage helped enable Data Domain to establish itself as the industry leader. Through continual platform innovation, Data Domain deduplication storage systems support multiple business use cases for data protection. Additionally, the efficiency of the Data Domain SISLTM architecture enables EMC to continually introduce higher performing and denser backup appliances.

For perspective, according to the spec sheets, the first Data Domain appliance introduced in 2003 – the DD200, provided 23TB’s of dedupe capacity and could push 150GB of data per hour. Today’s current top end Data Domain appliance by comparison, the DD990, is orders of magnitude larger in both storage capacity and performance–providing up to 100PB’s of logical or dedupe capacity while cranking out anywhere from 15-30 TB’s per hour depending on the configuration. The point is Data Domain remains very relevant despite the inexorable growth of data over the past decade.

Bringing it All Together

In the nearly four years since EMC acquired Data Domain, its backup and recovery division has maintained accelerated growth levels that exceed the overall rate of growth of the backup appliance market. This is testament to the successful integration of Data Domain into the EMC backup portfolio and the overall market’s vote of confidence in both the Data Domain and Avamar solutions, as well as the rest of the EMC data protection technology suite–NetWorker, Data Protection Advisor and SourceOne.

Most impressively is the level of integration that has come to fruition between the Data Domain, Avamar and NetWorker products over the past 4 years. EMC has carved out specific business use cases and has overcome the overlap between the product lines. Through the BOOST software, Avamar and Data Domain can be used in conjunction to provide a powerful integrated backup solution which encompasses backup software and deduplication to address over a dozen data center backup use cases.

Storage Swiss Take

At Storage Switzerland we tend to stay away from the word “revolutionary” when describing new companies or technologies to hit the IT stage primarily because the word has become so clichéd. Data Domain is one company, however, that we feel comfortable applying this word to. It isn’t that often that a company comes along, VMware being another exception, that makes a significant impact on the industry.

2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of Data Domain. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that under EMC’s auspices, Data Domain systems continue to drive innovation and leadership in the data protection space. With the advent of cloud computing, big data and the need to efficiently transport and protect data regardless of where it originates, Data Domain continues to be a relevant technology in a landscape littered with the scattered remains of also-rans.

EMC Data Domain is a client of Storage Switzerland

As a 22 year IT veteran, Colm has worked in a variety of capacities ranging from technical support of critical OLTP environments to consultative sales and marketing for system integrators and manufacturers. His focus in the enterprise storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions space extends from mainframe and distributed computing environments across a wide range of industries.

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Posted in Briefing Note

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