Data Domain: The TiVo in data deduplication market

It is that time of the year when Christmas shopping is in full swing. If you rewind time by just six to eight years, TiVo’ing was a verb used widely and my team was not an exception. TiVo was a must have gadget in the house. My manager once said, “it is not easy to find a technical gadget that my wife would love, but TiVo was something she could operate and enjoy without being coached.”

TiVo was the gold standard of digital video recorders. Consumers were willing to pay a premium for the box upfront and sign up for monthly fees to get ‘Tivo Service”, the data service using which TiVo populated programming schedules and tasks. These costs are in addition what consumers may be paying for Cable or Satellite services.

Cable and satellite operators came with built-in DVRs in their set top boxes. Still, TiVo used to be the star. It had 4.36 million subscribers in 2006. The technology and usability for DVRs from competitors was so poor that consumers continued to pay a premium to enjoy hassle free experience in TiVo.

Fast forward a few years from its peak in 2006, TiVo stumbled into identity crisis. The competition came not just from Cable and Satellite providers who matched the simplicity of TiVo in their all-in-one set top offerings, but it also came indirectly from streaming services (NetFlix, Amazon, Hulu), cheaper purpose built set top boxes for streaming (Apple TV, Roku) and multi-purpose devices (Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox). Now TiVo is struggling to stay relevant. It is no more asking for upfront premium for the box, if you commit to a 2-year subscription the box is yours. It partners with competitors to bring their services into TiVo. If there was a market for ‘Digital Video Recorders’, now it is squeezed by players from adjacent markets.

Holiday Offer from TiVo.com, seen on November 27, 2012
Holiday Offer from TiVo.com, seen on November 27, 2013

 

Today Deduplication Storage is such a market where Data Domain used to be the TiVo. It was a powerful but yet simple device that an IT administrator could manage without reading its manual. It moved out tape as main backup storage medium once it started to integrate with market leading backup applications, especially with Symantec’s NetBackup through OpenStorage. EMC had to pay a fortune (and fight with NetApp) to acquire this technology, but it paid off, as Data Domain was the only cash cow in EMC’s Backup and Recovery Services division.

Data Domain could ask for a premium as other players in the market couldn’t match the technology and simplicity. But now… the tide is changing…

Direct competitors are getting their act together. HP matched Data Domain’s scale and performance and added high availability on top of it. Symantec launched integrated all-in-one appliances with content aware deduplication built-in. Most backup software vendors have deduplication available as a feature. Even standard file systems (Symantec’s VxFS, Microsoft’s NTFS, Oracle’s ZFS) are now including deduplication. Now “data deduplication as a market” is being squeezed by competitors and adjacent players.  Customers are less and less likely pay a premium for deduplication, as it is becoming a commodity.

TiVo managed to kill VHS tapes, which was the primary recording device for television shows. EMC touted Data Domain as a tape killer in backup industry. While disk based solutions have indeed limited the value of tape (now it is used primarily for long term retention), Data Domain as a standalone premium deduplication storage device may be extinct even before tape gives up its last breath. Time will tell.

 

 

 

 

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