Here's a NetApp press release on three new VTLs (virtual tape libraries): "NearStore VTL300, VTL700, and VTL1400 (PDF here) systems provide customers with the ability to substantially increase backup and recovery service levels by doubling to tripling the amount of backup data that can be stored on disk, while also increasing VTL write performance by over 50 performance compared to the already industry-leading performance of existing NetApp VTL systems. NetApp is the first major storage vendor to provide disk-to-disk backup cost savings of 50-67 percent by using disk compression without compromising the demanding performance needs of the enterprise data center."

This "demanding performance needs" is code for 'we don't do de-duping'. The claim that NetApp makes that it is "doubling to tripling the amount of backup data that can be stored on disk" is pretty poor when it could be saying it could increase the amount it store on disk by a factor of 40 to 60 times if de-duping was added to its compression technologies. Data Domain has 20:1 de-dupe ratios and Diligent says 30:1 is achievable. (Both depend on the data mix.)

NetApp's problem is that it doesn't have the CPU horsepower needed to do compression and de-duping in the VTL. This is getting towards tragic because the cost savings of 50-67 percent are small potatoes indeed compared to the cost savings of reducing data amounts by factors of 20 to 30.

NetApp itself says cost-savings are more important than performance: "Despite the pressing need to improve backup performance, enterprises overwhelmingly identify cost as the primary obstacle to implementing fast and reliable VTL backup solutions."

By this statement NetApp has failed to deliver technology, de-duping, that will respond to the primary obstacle faced by enterprises. Diligent OEM'd by HDS, Avamar, Data Domain, FalconStor, and ADIC, now Quantum, have all jumped on the de-duping bandwagon.

If NetApp thinks Sun is not going to include de-duping in the VTL Enterprise edition its developing with Falconstor or in the next generation VTL PLus product then its head is heading sand-ward at supersonic speed. Imagine a Sun VTL with Thumper-type cpu horsepower? De-duping here Sun comes.

NetApp may play down the importance of de-duplication but expect a U-turn as soon as it gets the CPU horsepower needed.

Faced with immensely more cost-efficient VTLs from Sun, HDS and no doubt others, NetApp will have no choice. Perhaps it will OEM Data Domain's technology and plant it in the drive array controllers.