Disk Cartridges Aim to Challenge Tape

New products combine disk backup and removeability. But nothing's out yet

November 3, 2005

3 Min Read
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At least two companies are working on removeable disk systems for enterprise backup and archiving. And if they manage to deliver the goods, IT pros, particularly ones in small and medium-sized businesses, might have a handy new option.

Startup ProStor Systems, for instance, unveiled today a technology called RDX, comprising a 2.5-inch removeable disk drive cartridge with capacities from 60 Gbytes to 400 Gbytes, designed for server backup. (See ProStor Intros Backup Tech.)

The startup, which was founded in May 2004, claims its "disk to removeable disk" technique comes with automatic error-correction, making it more reliable than earlier single-drive storage solutions from the likes of Iomega. The vendor says its proprietary cartridges will last 20 years, and officials claim their own tests show data transfer rates of 30 to 60 Mbytes per second (compared with 5 Mbytes per second or so for tape cartridge backup).

"We want to be half the price of tape drives with better performance," crows Steve Georgis, CEO, whose resum includes stints at Exabyte, StorageTek, and Data General.

If it sounds too good to be true, it may be. ProStor, which has $8.7 million in funding from New Enterprise Associates, Boulder Ventures, and Western Technology, says evaluation units are available now to OEMs. But pricing is still up in the air -- though in volume, the vendor would like to charge less than $1 per Gbyte, according to Georgis -- and so far, info on beta sites is indefinite as well. "We have beta customers under NDA," is all the CEO will say.Still, ProStor's proposition is a compelling one to at least one storage pro. "I would absolutely be interested in this type of backup solution," writes Carla Hedding, manager of network administration at Wolf Etter & Co., an accounting firm, in an email today. She goes on:

  • Backup solutions have not grown as quickly as other technology, leaving the IT departments with state-of-the-art systems but with antiquated methods to protect our data. SANs have aided in this area, providing D2D solutions, but this still [leaves] out off-site archiving. SANs are providing other options, such as data replication, but the cost to implement can be high.

It looks as if ProStor's struck a chord with at least one SMB. But another company is also at work to combine the portability and low cost of tape with the reliability of disk -- with a definite enterprise twist. Spectra Logic, which competes against StorageTek in the tape library market, is beta-testing a product called the RXT that features removeable SATA-based cartridges housed in a "docking station" that runs standalone or plugs into the vendor's tape libraries.

The RXT also features something the RDX does not: support for RAID 0, 1, and 5. According to SVP of marketing and business development Hossein ZiaShakeri, the RXT is in beta test and should be launched early next year. It will cost somewhere between $3,000 and $9,500, depending on configuration.

ProStor and Spectra Logic have similar goals. But ProStor claims its cartridge is smaller and ultimately cheaper than Spectra Logic's. Spectra Logic says its RAID support and link to tape libraries will help attract enterprise customers more than a single-drive unit.These aren't the only vendors working on small disk-based backup technology. ZiaShakeri says he knows of at least one other firm that's looking into it, but he's sworn to secrecy.

Hedding, meanwhile, will believe it all when she sees it, and she'd very much like to see it. "If ProStor's D2RD solution works as they say and comes in at a price level which is affordable to small businesses such as ours, it would definitely be a technology to consider."

— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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