Exabyte Introduces VXA-2 Tape, Unveils VXA, Mammoth Drive Roadmaps


The company will also kill its Eliant 8mm drives and its DLT-based automation


Tape drive manufacturer Exabyte, sensing opportunity from the end of the development life of drives based on the DDS technology, introduced its second-generation VXA tape drive on Tuesday.

Exabyte acquired the VXA technology last November with the acquisition of Ecrix, which developed the technology.

VXA-2 drives can record up to 160 Gbytes of data on a single cartridge at a rate of 12 Mbytes per second in the compressed mode, compared to a maximum of 40 Gbytes with data compression. The drives are available in Ultra2 Wide SCSI, IDE/ATAPI, and FireWire versions, and are list priced at about $999, the company said.

The new VXA-2 drives are part of a complete restructuring going on at Exabyte after four straight years of losing money, said Frank Saab, the company's director of marketing.

Among the changes expected at Exabyte is the outsourcing of nearly all the company's drives to Hitachi Ltd. and its tape autoloaders and libraries to Solectron, said Saab. These moves, along with other cost-cutting measures, are expected to cut $14 million in costs annually, he said.

"We expect operating profitability by the third quarter of this year," Saab said. "There's a slight chance we will break even this quarter."

On the technology front, Exabyte's roadmap for its VXA drives includes the VXA-3, with a compressed capacity of 320 Gbytes and throughput of 16 Mbytes per second. It is expected to be released sometime next year. VXA-4 drives, with compressed capacity of 640 Gbytes and throughput of 32 Mbytes per second, are expected in 2004, Saab said.

Exabyte is also planning to release its Mammoth M3 drives, with compressed capacity of 500 Gbytes and throughput of 48 Mbytes per second, sometime in 2003, said Saab. The M3 will be read-compatible with Mammoth M2 cartridges, while the M3 and the VXA-4 drives will both be read-compatible with VXA-3 cartridges, he said.

The company also expects to ship its last Eliant-brand 8mm tape drives either this quarter or next, Saab said.

On the automation front, Exabyte will no longer produce tape autoloaders or libraries using DLT drives, said Saab. Instead, the focus going forward will be on Mammoth and LTO drives, he said.

Next quarter, the company plans to introduce a new member of its Magnum tape library with room for up to eight Fibre Channel LTO drives and 148 cartridges, Saab said. The base configuration, with no drives or cartridges, is expected to run about $16,000, he said.

Currently, over 80 percent of Exabyte's products are sold through distribution, with just less than 20 percent going to OEMs, said Saab. However, the company plans to increase the OEM portion of its business to about 50 percent.

"This actually makes it easer for our solution provider partners by building awareness of our products," Saab said. "It makes the products more widely known and available" via other vendors. Research shows that the availability in the market generates pull-through demand through distribution."