Quantum: Third OEM's the charm?

Dave Raffo announced in Storage Soup that Quantum announced yesterday that they had found a new OEM for their DXi line.  I hope for their sake (and their investors’ sake) that things work out better for them this time.

The first OEM partner for the DXi was EMC. Then EMC started having problems with their DL3D line that was based on DXi. They looked elsewhere and found Data Domain. Now, in the words of Frank Slootman (Data Domain’s former CEO now in charge of all things backup at EMC), they are “swapping a lot of those boxes out at zero revenue.”  Another source recently verified that this is indeed the case: EMC is actually swapping out DL3D systems and replacing them with Data Domain boxes in order to fix some serious customer satisfaction issues.

The next potential OEM partner was to be Dell.  They announced in November 2008 that “Dell’s plan is to integrate Quantum’s data deduplication software stack with its PowerVault and EqualLogic hardware, and provide a common management framework for multiple Quantum deduplication repositories at multiple sites, including EMC’s DL3D line.”  This announcement caused Steve Duplessie to ask if Quantum was the new open standard in dedupe. (This was at a time when both EMC & Dell were both going to be using them.)  Which is why it was a big surprise for many of us when in June 2009 they announced a deduplication appliance based on CommVault’s Simpana line. And as far as I can tell, they also haven’t uttered the word Quantum since that November 09 press release.  It did appear for a while that they were going to resell the DL3D product (rather than develop their own), but those rumors disappeared when EMC acquired Data Domain.  Dell also make a recent announcement that they will be selling more EMC gear, and an internal source tells me that does include the Data Domain systems.

So why did two major companies go elsewhere after having access to Quantum’s technology? I know from multiple sources that it wasn’t just politics — they had legitimite issues with the Quantum systems. I don’t have all the facts, but I am aware of one challenge that they’ve been working on.  The DXi system stores backups in native form in a cache and in deduped form in what it calls the block pool.  According to multiple sources, restores and copies work fine when they’re coming from the cache. But when Quantum first released the DXi, restores from the block pool were 90% slower than restores from the cache.  This limitation was confirmed by one of EMC’s bloggers. Those same sources have verified that they have improved things quite a bit, but that there is still a 50% performance hit when restoring from the block pool.

I know that Quantum has been working on this for some time, and that they had hoped to have solved this by now.  Mabye they have solved it (and any other problems) in a beta release that my sources haven’t seen yet.  For the sake of their investors and this new OEM partner, I hope they have.

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