Overland Ships New Tape Libraries To Mixed VAR Reaction

The company's NEO 2000E and NEO 4000E tape libraries were upgraded from the previous models with a few new features to increase performance and drop the price by about 14 percent, said Peri Grover, director of marketing at the storage vendor.

The new libraries are Overland's first to use half-height drives, which cost less than full-height models but have lower performance, Grover said.

The libraries also have adopted a new interface technology called Automation Drive Interface (ADI), which eliminates the need for a protocol translation card, frees up a port on a storage switch, reduces the number of cables needed and eliminates a single point of failure, she said.

Also new are smaller 15-cartridge magazines, which cut tape handling time, Grover said.

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One thing Overland did not do with the new NEO libraries was change how it handles encryption keys with LTO-4 tape drives that have embedded encryption capabilities.

"Our position is, encryption should be in the ISV applications," she said. "But we're in the development phase for our next version, and evaluating whether key management is required. Right now, it doesn't seem to be."

One Overland solution provider, who asked to remain anonymous, disagreed, saying that Overland needs to manage the keys in its libraries.

"Overland is still taking the stance that encryption key management should stay in the application software," the solution provider said. "However, that opens the door to Spectra Logic, which manages keys in the library."

The solution provider also said that, while Overland's price drop is important, a deeper drop was expected.

The solution provider said that Overland needs to find a way to generate more excitement for its products than the relatively minor changes it did with its new tape libraries.

"I'm still selling Overland products, and have loyalty with the company," the solution provider said. "It was exciting when Overland got into the disk market with its REO line. I was hoping they would recapture that excitement with NEO."

Cutting the price is a big deal to customers, especially in today's economy, said Don McNaughton, sales manager at HorizonTek, a solution provider and Overland partner.

Contrary to popular belief, almost every customer still wants or needs tape even though all of them already use some kind of disk-to-disk backup technology, McNaughton said.

"Customers still need tape for long-term backups," he said. "They don't want to put data on disk for multiple years. And disk is still not as cheap as tape. Implementing off-site replication with disk can be more costly to implement than tape."

The number of tape libraries being sold is not shrinking, but the capacity per library is, McNaughton said. "A customer who before might have needed a 60-slot library now may need only 30 slots because of its increased use of disk storage," he said.

Grover said the new NEO libraries' primary competition comes from Quantum, but that OEMs like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, IBM and Sun also offer competing products sourced from contract manufacturers.

HP also offers the MSL 6000 library, which is an OEM version of Overland's NEO libraries. Overland is currently discussing further OEM deals with HP using the new NEO E series, she said.

The NEO 2000E scales from 30 to 240 tape cartridges per module while the NEO 4000E scales from 60 to 240 cartridges per module. Pricing for the libraries, which are now shipping, starts at $12,333 for a NEO 2000E with one half-height LTO-4 drive and space for 30 cartridges, Grover said.