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RDX Automation, A New Twist On The VTL

This week BDT announced plans to build robotic libraries for ProStor's RDX removable disk cartridges. Assuming it presents a VTL interface to applications, it would be an interesting twist, a real library moving disk-cartridge virtual tapes around. While this is intriguing, as an industry we have to shift from treating disk like tape to leveraging the advantages of disk for backup and archive applications. Either way, it will make for cool YouTube videos.

I've long been a fan of the RDX technology, recommending it to friends, family and other SMBs looking for removable backup or archive media. The RDX cartridge shock mounts and hermetically seals 2.5" laptop hard drives, making them more shock tolerant than 3.5" or enterprise drives, in a plastic case. The cartridge soft-loads into the RDX dock, so the dock connectors are rated at 10,000 insertion/removal cycles. ProStor claims a 30-year data lifetime, although that's the result of accelerated testing and for storage in controlled environments.

RDX cartridges are a step up from USB hard drives, not only because they're rugged enough to use as a hockey puck, as shown in this YouTube Video, but also because the host system sees them as removable storage while USB drives are considered fixed. Backup and archiving applications will typically prompt the user for fresh media when a removable cartridge is full, but they will fail when a fixed disk target fills up. Imation, Tandberg Data, HP and Dell all OEM RDX technology for various products.

BDT is the German company behind tape autoloaders and low end tape libraries OEMed by IBM, HP, Dell and others.  Back in the Devonian period of computing, I used to sell their sheet and envelope feeders for Qume and Diablo DaisyWheel printers (think electric typewriter on steroids with a Centronics interface).  I think the combination of fine German mechanical engineering and RDX could be interesting.

This isn't the first time a vendor's tried to marry robotics with removable disk cartridges.  About five years ago Imation tried with their Ulysses cartridge system. Ulysses, like RDX, packaged laptop drives in cartridges, but the Ulysses cartridge was supposed to be the same size as an LTO tape to make building robotics easier. Qualstar announced they would build a Ulysses library, but later dropped the project as there just wasn't enough room in the LTO form factor to make it work.

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