Olixir Gets Tough on Tape

Startup touts encryption and compression for its 'ruggedized' drives

February 2, 2007

3 Min Read
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Secretive startup Olixir Technologies is touting a combination of compression and encryption for "battle-ready" removable hard drives in an attempt to lure users away from tape-based backup. (See Olixir Launches Solution.)

IT managers have already voiced their concerns about the weaknesses of tape, citing reliability issues and the need for a controlled storage environment so that tapes don't physically stretch and contract. (See Users Open Up on Optical.)

Because disk drives are sealed units, the technology is regarded as more robust than tape, where the media is exposed to the environment. (See Portable Disks Bolster Backup.) Tape technology, unlike disk, also requires physical contact between the tape head and the media, which can eventually lead to corruption.

Olixir has its eye on this opportunity, and today unveiled its SC-1000, a hardware card that slots into the PCI-X slot on a server or PC. The card encrypts and compresses data, which is then sent to the startup's FastRestore backup device equipped with Olixir's removable Mobile DataVault drives.

An encryption engine on the SC-1000 performs either 128-bit or 256-bit encryption of data before it is sent to the drives. (See Tape Security Trips Up Users and Can't Quite Kick the Tape Habit.) A compression engine on the SC-1000 can quadruple the capacity of the DataVault drives for certain applications such as databases and email, the vendor claims.Olixir has equipped the SC-1000 with compatibility for well-known backup applications. Two versions are available: one for Symantec BackupExec and the other for EMC Retrospect. Both offerings, which are available now, are priced at $995.

The DataVault drives, priced at roughly $290 apiece, have been "ruggedized" to support up to 10,000 "Gs", which is a measurement of shock-absorbency, according to the vendor. In everyday speak, this means that the vendor's 160-Gbyte drives can be dropped "multiple" times from a height of around seven feet, says Darshan Shah, the Olixir president.

A higher capacity 750-Gbyte version of the drive can withstand around 1,200 "Gs" of shock, which equates to multiple drops from table height.

The exec is coy about exactly how the DataVaults have been toughened, although he told Byte and Switch that it involves a secret material fitted around the drive itself, which dissipates shock.

The exec was unable to serve up any early adopters of the technology, although he confirmed that there are some government and enterprise beta customers.Olixir is equally guarded on its financials and employee headcount. "We're a well-funded company but we don't disclose those specifics," explains Shah.

At least one analyst warns that the startup, which cites its main competition as tape vendors such as Sun and IBM, will have its work cut out displacing tape. "Old habits die hard," says Robert Amatruda, research director at IDC. "When you have people and processes built around tape-based data protection, it's difficult to migrate off that."

The startup is also up against vendors such as Quantum and ProStor, which are touting their own removable disk media as a replacement for tape. (See Quantum Unveils Drive and Disk Cartridges Aim to Challenge Tape.) ProStor, for its part, appears to be gaining some real momentum, clinching major OEM deals for its own "ruggedized" RDX disk cartridge with Tandberg and Imation. (See Imation, ProStor Sign and ProStor & Tandberg Agree.)

Last year Quantum stepped up its own efforts in this space, signing an OEM deal with IBM for its GoVault drive. (See IBM OEMs Quantum GoVault and Quantum Counts Q3 Losses.)

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Imation Corp.

  • Olixir Technologies

  • Quantum Corp. (NYSE: QTM)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Tandberg ASA0

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