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Selling deduplicating virtual tape libraries (VTLs)

VARs selling deduplicating VTLs for data backup should be able to quantify the benefits that a deduplicating VTL can deliver to a costumer.

Deduplicating virtual tape libraries (VTLs) are a data protection technology that a growing number of midsized and enterprise business customers are thinking about. The more customers read about deduplicating VTLs, the more they understand the benefits, and some are ready to implement the technology. The challenge for VARs is to keep customer expectations for data reduction ratios in line with what deduplicating VTLs can actually deliver.

Achieving high data reduction ratios of 20:1 or more is possible, but the following variables must first hold true:

  • The daily rate of changed data in the client environment must remain at 5% or lower.
  • Customers must retain data on disk for 90 days or more.
  • The compression ratio of backed up data must be at least 2:1.

    To quantify the benefits that a deduplicating VTL can deliver to a client, VARs already selling deduplicating VTLs almost always do a preliminary assessment of the client's backup environment. What tools they use to perform the assessment will generally vary according to what deduplicating VTL they offer. For instance, Quantum DX resellers may use Quantum's proprietary backup assessment tool, while Sepaton has a relationship with Agite Software to use its backupVISUAL software in client environments.

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    Storage resellers find these assessments necessary because users are more technically savvy than they were even just a few years ago, and customers need more justification than ever to bring deduplication in-house. Kevin Reynolds, CEO of Littleton, Mass.-based Signal Computer Products Inc., finds that his customers no longer want to buy a box but a solution. Clients are not looking at just the deduplication product, but multiple deduplicating VTLs. This is forcing Reynolds to train his pre-sales engineers on these competitive products so they "can sell against them," Reynolds said.

    The upside of customers becoming more educated about their backup options is that VARs can become more proactive with their client accounts. Jim Reichardt, vice president of professional services for Middleboro, Mass.-based More Group Inc., finds that as network bandwidth costs drop, coupled with the data reduction benefits delivered by deduplication, it leads to deeper discussions with customers about disaster recovery options.

    Colocation opportunities and customers who build their own disaster recovery facility are just two of the ideas that More Group is exploring with its customers to add a new dimension to client relationships. "You can really roll up your sleeves and start thinking ahead," Reichardt said.

    Storage resellers who excel at explaining the value proposition of deduplication to their clients -- and some of the new ways that users can exploit data backed up to disk -- sometimes discover another side benefit: increased capital budgets. Steve Whitner, Quantum Corp.'s product marketing manager, finds that users want to get more data on disk and make backups simpler to manage. Though customers start out looking at one solution, new ideas occur to them that "result in customers going back and asking for increases in their capital budget," Whitner said.

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