Solution providers are carefully watching how the market unfolds for a new breed of data backup and archiving technology: removable hard drives.
Removable hard drives include an interface that fits in a server, PC or autoloader, along with removable hard-disk cartridges based on traditional hard-drive technology. However, they can be inserted and removed for off-site storage like tape cartridges.
The drives are coming to market via a minimum of five vendors, including Imation, Oakdale, Minn.; Iomega, San Diego; Quantum, Milpitas, Calif.; Tandberg Data, San Diego; and Spectra Logic, Boulder, Colo.
Removable hard drives have become an important part of the storage technology that Advanced Automation provides to its medical and dental office customers, said Jon Ouzts, sales manager at the Norcross, Ga., solution provider.
Customers in this space use Iomega's Rev drives to rotate disks off-site for disaster recovery, Ouzts said. "Tapes don't work so well in those environments, especially in dental offices where sprays used on customers' teeth can create a lot of dust and debris."
The drives also are starting to go to the system builder channel. Chuck Orcutt, business development manager for the Nexlink server line at Seneca Data Distributors, a system builder in North Syracuse, N.Y., said channel interest in removable hard drives has been picking up, but capacities higher than that of the current drives are needed. "It's a definite improvement from tape. But there is still demand for larger capacity. It's still in the adoption mode."
Pat Edwards, vice president of sales at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based solution provider, said that he expects small and midsize customers to be more accepting of removable hard drives than enterprises. "The cost difference between tape and disk is big for them," he said.
Imation's Ulysses, based on 2.5-inch Serial ATA hard drives, fits 100 Gbytes or 60 Gbytes native capacity in an LTO tape cartridge format. By year's end, the company expects to introduce a new line, Odyssey, which appears to a system as a removable media device, much like a large optical disk.
Iomega last month doubled the capacity of its Rev removable hard disks to 70 Gbytes. The vendor is planning to release an autoloader that can take advantage of the technology in the next couple of months.
Quantum's GoVault Drive is a Seagate 2.5-inch mobile hard drive in a ruggedized cartridge that plugs into a docking station that fits in a 3.5-inch or 5.25-inch server bay. The drives are available in 40-Gbyte, 80-Gbyte and 120-Gbyte capacities. The internal drive version is available through distribution to solution providers and to custom-system builders. An external GoVault is expected by year-end.
Spectra Logic's RXT Sabre family of removable hard drives has an interface unit with an LTO tape drive format and cartridges with up to 500 Gbytes of capacity. The company sells it in media packs with one interface unit and multiple drives for its T950 tape library or for use in a stand-alone or rack-mount unit.
Tandberg recently signed a licensing agreement with Boulder-based ProStor Systems to manufacture, market, distribute and support that company's new RDX removable disk cartridges. The 2.5-inch hard mobile drives range in size from 40 Gbytes to 400 Gbytes.