Quantum Tape Drives Speak Up

But will monitoring features really help Quantum's DLT win against LTO and AIT?

July 22, 2003

3 Min Read
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Quantum Corp. (NYSE: DSS) is rolling out management features for its DLT (Digital Linear Tape) drives in the hopes that they'll help the company recapture market share it has lost to LTO and AIT in the midrange backup market.

However, to support the new DLTsage features, Quantum's existing Super DLT (SDLT) 320 and 220 drives will require firmware upgrades, and the company has limited plans to support older units -- both of which will limit the overall usefulness of DLTsage for most customers.

DLTsage is supposed to let administrators find out the status of individual tape drives in three different ways: via a proprietary management interface; via infrared wireless to a handheld Pocket PC device; or to third-party backup software via standard "tape alerts."

Basically, the features are intended to eliminate the guesswork that is typically involved when a backup session fails, says Steven Berens, senior director of product marketing and strategy at Quantum. With DLTsage, according to Quantum, a user can easily find out whether a backup failed because of a malfunctioning drive and then locate that drive. "The biggest frustration with managing tape drives is not knowing what's going on," he says.

The company developed DLTsage for its Super DLT 600 tape drives, which it expects to start shipping by early fourth quarter of 2003. Quantum says the SDLT 600 format provides 64 MByte/s of throughput and 640 GBytes of capacity, or roughly double the current generation of SDLT 320 drives (see Quantum Tapes Up Roadmap).Berens says almost all of the DLTsage functionality will be available to current SDLT 320 and 220 drives that have been upgraded to version 70 of the firmware. About a year from now, Quantum expects to release DLTsage support for its low-end VS80 and VS160 drives.

Tape library vendors Advanced Digital Information Corp. (Nasdaq: ADIC) and Overland Storage Inc. (Nasdaq: OVRL) have promised to support the DLTsage alerting features, as have software vendors Arkeia, CommVault Systems Inc., Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) (NYSE: CA), Legato Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: LGTO), and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS).

Quantum believes DLTsage will be another arrow in its quiver as it tries to fight back into the midrange market after Linear Tape Open (LTO) leapfrogged it in terms of performance and capacity. Last year, tape drives built using the LTO Ultrium format outshipped drives based on Super DLT by nearly two to one, according to Gartner Inc. (see Gartner: LTO Outsold SDLT in 02). The LTO format is maintained by Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Certance LLC (formerly Seagate Removable Storage Solutions).

At the same time, Sony Corp.'s (NYSE: SNE) AIT (Advanced Intelligent Tape) has also given SDLT a run for its money, analysts say.

"LTO clearly has been a competitive product, and so has Sony's AIT," says Bob Amatruda, research manager at IDC for tape and removable storage. He says DLTsage should help Quantum differentiate SDLT, but adds that "it's critical that they support the current installed base."Otherwise, what looks like a good idea could end up as just sagebrush.

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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