Of all the storage companies competing to sell data deduplication, Quantum is unique. That’s because it is primarily a tape vendor and data deduplication was developed to replace tape.
Look at some the other vendors involved in what Data Domain CEO Frank Slootman calls a “land grab” for deduplication customers. Domain, Sepaton, Diligent Technologies and FalconStor sell virtual tape libraries (VTLs), EMC and Network Appliance sell massive disk arrays, and Riverbed sells WAN optimization. Their sales forces wouldn’t know LTO-4 tape from masking tape.
Then there is Quantum, which after gobbling up rival ADIC last year will sell close to $1 billion worth of tape products this year. Quantum CEO Rick Belluzzo isn’t buying into the “tape is dead” line you hear from most de-duplication vendors.
“Tape will continue to have an important role,” he said. “Very few customers are looking to go tapeless.”
Quantum won’t be the only tape vendor selling deduplication devices for long. Overland Storage will come out with its deduplication appliance soon. Still, most deduplication vendors disagree with Belluzzo about the long-term future of tape. Sepaton spelled backward is “no tapes,” and the company was built on the premise that tape is going away. So was Data Domain, and Slootman says when Data Domain sells appliances, “We replace tape in almost every instance.”
Belluzzo said that’s because Data Domain sells to remote office and midsized companies. Quantum’s strategy is to push into the enterprise, with the DXi7500 enterprise system coming in a few months to go with Quantum tape libraries. He says it doesn’t have to be one or the other in large shops.
“I hear our competitors say, ‘It’s clear that tape is dead.’ That has no credibility with customers,” Belluzzo said. “We still sell tape. We see tape replacement along the edge, where they collect data and replicate it to the data center. But tape plays a critical role in centralized data centers and consolidated SAN backup schemes. The whole story is, in midsized and enterprise data centers, people are buying disk and tape together.”
Quantum claims 120 customers for its DXi de-duplication appliances over the last six months. Market leader Data Domain has about 400 over that same period.
Another area where Quantum does a balancing act is with its de-duplication patent. With deduplication’s popularity rising and other vendors looking to get into the act, Quantum could license its technology and let others sell it. Data Domain paid a $5.4 million royalty for the patent earlier this year. And Quantum is suing Riverbed for patent infringement.
Belluzzo said Quantum is a product company, so licensing its technology takes a back seat. He won’t rule it out, though.
“It’s always a balance you face: do you hold onto it and let the market work around your, or do you exploit it for commercial purposes and let the market come to you?” he said. “We’re trying to balance that now.”