Alas Poor Plasmon

Plasmon's 60-GB UDO has been the last man standing in the commercial optical disk market

Howard Marks

December 4, 2008

2 Min Read
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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.Blu-ray, a consumer format, is now the only reasonable option for optical archiving. But past experience with CD and DVD libraries shows the lack of a cassette and wide variations in media quality has made consumer formats questionable for long-term archiving.

Do optical drives still have a place in the data center or should they join the drum and core as obsolete storage technologies?

Howard Marks is chief scientist at Networks Are Our Lives Inc., a Hoboken, N.J.-based consultancy where he's been beating storage network systems into submission and writing about it in computer magazines since 1987. He currently writes for InformationWeek, which is published by the same company as Byte and Switch.

About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at:

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