NetApp users now have the ability to de-duplicate primary storage from rival vendors such as EMC, Hitachi and HP, after NetApp bundled its free data de-duplication utility with its V-Series gateways.

For the past year NetApp has been trumpeting its ability to de-duplicate primary storage, as opposed to backup storage, the more common target.

Previously NetApp only de-duplicated primary storage on its own hardware, but now it is adding this ability to its V-Series line of storage virtualisation products, which work with systems from third-party vendors. "None of these guys have de-duplication for primary storage," said Chris Cummings, senior director of data protection solutions at NetApp. "If you want de-duplication for EMC primary disk, NetApp's the only game in town."

EMC's de-duplication strategy centres on its Avamar backup and recovery product line.

De-duplication, which eliminates redundant or duplicate data, is taking on increased importance as enterprises deal with vastly increasing amounts of digital information. The ability to reduce data storage needs can help keep power and cooling costs under control, Cummings noted.

"Certain data centre operators are now being given a kilowatt budget," he said. "If that's the case, the efficiency of storage is going to come under greater scrutiny."

NetApp began adding de-duplication to enterprise products such as the FAS6000 series last year, and the capability is now in all NetApp systems except some technology targeted at small and mid-sized businesses, Cummings said.

De-duplication of primary storage is proving particularly attractive to customers running virtualised servers, Cummings pointed out. "We can de-duplicate storage that is sitting underneath a virtualised server implementation. For NetApp, we've seen an average of 70 percent to 90 percent de-duplication in virtual servers," he said. "If you're running up to 16 virtual machines on a single physical box, as many customers do, that's a huge amount of space savings," he added.

NetApp's de-duplication is part of its Data ONTAP operating system, which comes with NetApp storage at no extra cost. NetApp storage ranges broadly in price. While a NetApp FAS2000 box starts at about $15,000 (£7,571) according to Cummings, a large enterprise deploying lots of high-end storage might spend more than a million dollars.