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Alas Poor Plasmon

11:30 AM -- There has been a steady flow of bad news out of U.K.-based Plasmon plc (London: PLM) during the past couple of months. It started in September, when the board recommended the company be sold. In October, there was the melodrama of going into administration (the U.K. version of Chapter 11 bankruptcy). Then a white knight from the U.S. came to save the day and then pulled the rug out from under the deal. That was followed by layoffs, leaving a crippled company on the side of the road praying for a new savior. To add insult to injury, IBM just announced a settlement over allegations that Steve Murphy poached IBM/Softek employees while running Plasmon from 2007 to 2008.

Plasmon's 60-Gbyte UDO has been the last man standing in the commercial optical disk market and the replacement for MagnetoOptical WORM disks.

Now the vultures are really circling, as evidenced by the releases QStar Technologies sent out this week urging Plasmon UDO and Diamond file system customers to switch to QStar's SntryStr archive appliance including special discounts and a free migration tool.

Things haven't been going well in the science fiction end of the optical disk market either, as InPhase Technologies , which has been promising to deliver their 300-GB holographic disk next year for the past few years, pushed off delivery once again -- now quoting late 2009. Fellow Bell Labs spinoff Call/Recall Inc. , which this June was talking about 2009 delivery of its 1-Tbyte optical drive that could also read CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray disks, has gone quiet, as has Mempile Ltd. , which also promised a 1-Tbyte optical.

Plasmon's demise raises questions about optical drives for commercial data storage. Theoretically, optical disks are an attractive archive medium. They can be inherently WORM, provide random access, and are power efficient. In fact, most optical disk libraries draw less power when idle than the electronics of a MAID array with all its disks spun down.

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