Achieving Data Reduction with Data Loss is not the Paradox That It Appears to Be

Deduplication and backup are becoming almost inextricably linked as they have achieved a certain level of corporate acceptance. However when it comes to implementing any form of data reduction (compression or deduplication) on primary storage, many companies are still reticent to do so. So it was with some interest that I spoke to Mike Power, the CEO of Neuxpower, whose company is having success in not just delivering data reduction of files on primary storage but doing so leveraging lossy technology.

Any storage provider that offers data deduplication to a certain degree relies upon data loss to achieve high deduplication ratios. The caveat is that data that is “lost” during the deduplication process is simply copies of existing data that already exists. So what happens during the deduplication process is that either new copies of the same data are discarded or the new copy of data is written and the like copy of data is discarded. So technically data loss occurs but it occurs without any information being lost.

This is what makes Neuxpower unique in the data reduction space. It proclaims in one of the slides in a PowerPoint presentation that it shared with me that “Lossy technology is the only way to reduce file bloat.

This makes its technology different in an important way from either compression or deduplication. While compression squeezes out unneeded spaces in files and data deduplication eliminates redundant copies of files or chunks of data, Neuxpower’s technology manipulates certain file types and removes superfluous data from them. It does this in such a way that it leaves files in a state that they remain accessible by third party applications for either read or write without needing any specialized software to decompress or reconstruct them.

Neuxpower’s Power declined to go into the details of how its technology works in this regards. However he did say it only supports file reduction for a limited number of file types that include Microsoft Office files (Excel, Word and PowerPoint) as well as JPEG images.

In his conversations with current Neuxpower customers, Power finds that doing data reduction on just these few file types hits about 50% or more of the data that they have in their unstructured file stores. The primary ways that Neuxpower customers are benefiting from its technology include:

  • Reduces backup times as well as the bandwith and storage needed for backup
  • Ekes out additional storage savings when there is a freeze on capital expenditures
  • Acts as a tactical solution for storage reclamation without needing to delete data or implement more advanced data archiving solutions
  • Avoids the expense of purchasing and implementing more storage hardware
  • Shrinks files before attaching them to emails without impacting the ability of the email recipients to access, read and manipulate the file

Since Neuxpower operates in a post-process manner, organizations can schedule it to run during off-hours such as at night or on weekends after the files are created. This enables them to introduce Neuxpower at any time so it can be implemented as either a reactive measure when companies are overwhelmed with file growth and need to get more mileage out of their existing storage. Conversely they can be proactive and implement it when new storage is introduced so they can buy less storage at the outset.

The one area of concern that I did have about its technology was in the area of compliance since Neuxpower does employ a lossy technology. Power told me that compliance has emerged as a concern among some banks that use Neuxpower’s technology. However after providing the banks with an explanation that delineated exactly what data Neuxpower deleted and what it retained, the banks determined that Neuxpower’s technology did not pose any compliance risk. However it is still unclear to me after the conversation whether or not Neuxpower’s explanation or the bank’s position would hold up in a court of law.

My take on this technology is that Neuxpower appears to have uncovered a powerful means to deliver data reduction on the most common file types in business environments. By shrinking commonly found Microsoft Office and JPEG files to capacities that are up to 1/20th of their original size, it essentially gives organizations all of the powers of compression and deduplication without some of their limitations. Further, with this week’s release of NXPowerLite for File Servers, organizations can now extend Neuxpower’s data reduction capabilities to Windows Storage Servers as well as NAS and Linux file servers.

My only cautionary note is to those organizations that are frequently involved in court cases or expect to be. Neuxpower does use lossy technology so data loss within these types of files does occur when its technology is implemented. While Neuxpower’s Power assured me that Neuxpower goes through great pains to make sure that only superfluous data is deleted from these files so the integrity of the data in the file or image is not compromised, whether or not a judge and jury will believe Neuxpower’s testimony has yet to be tested and affirmed.

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