Imation Breaks Into New Market With Ulysses Removable Hard Drives

The Oakdale, Minn.-based company recently reported third-quarter 2004 revenue of $298.6 million, up 15.2 percent from the year before. Profit for the quarter was $23.6 million, or 48 cents per share, about double the profit of a year ago.

Now with the new Ulysses family of removable hard drives, Imation is betting on an entirely new product category.

Ulysses consists of two parts. The removable disk cartridge looks like an LTO tape cartridge and works with existing LTO tape library and autoloader robotic pickers, said John Gaylord, manager of global product strategy for Imation. The second part is the tape emulator, which looks like an LTO tape drive and fits into existing LTO drive slots in tape libraries. Inside are electronics that treat the disk cartridge as if it were a tape cartridge, Gaylord said.

The biggest advantage of the Ulysses system over other disk-to-disk backup products is that it adds disk backup to existing tape automation products for just the cost of the emulator and cartridges, he said.

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In addition, the disk cartridges increase the value and performance of existing libraries. And because they are removable, they can be rotated off-site for short-term data protection, he said.

Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Cleveland-based Chi, said he thinks Ulysses is a creative and clever solution. However, he is concerned that removable hard drives may not be able to overcome the advantages of virtual tape libraries, in which hard drive arrays can be configured to act as tape storage.

“There is much activity in the virtual tape library space,” Knieriemen said. “But Ulysses doesn&'t remove the manual part of the tape backup process. We are seeing more of our customers wanting to take tape out of the picture, put their data on a virtual tape library and take out the manual processing of tape.”

Ulysses is expected to be available early next year. Price has yet to be determined, but Gaylord said disk-to-disk capability can be added to a typical library for between $5,000 and $10,000.