Iomega, Tandberg Release Tape-Replacing Disks

Both companies are looking to replace tapes with removable disk drives for backups and restores, but they're offering two different types of technology.

Joseph Kovar, Contributor

October 11, 2006

4 Min Read

Iomega and Tandberg Data this week released new removable hard disk solutions aimed at moving small- and midsize businesses away from tape for backups and restores.

Iomega, San Diego, on Wednesday said it is starting to ship the second generation of its REV Loader, a device that functions like a one-drive, eight-cartridge tape autoloader except that instead of tapes it uses removable hard drive cartridges.

Tandberg Data, Poway, Calif., on Tuesday said it is shipping its first removable hard drive solution in both internal and external versions.

While both companies are looking to replace tapes with removable disk drives for backups and restores, they are offering two different types of technology.

The Iomega REV drives, which are available in 35-Gbyte and 70-Gbyte models, have the disk media and motor in the cartridge, but the read/write heads are in the drive unit into which the cartridges are inserted. That drive can be in a stand-alone internal or external kit or built into an autoloader such as the company's new REF Loader 560, which was unveiled on Wednesday.

The removable cartridges for Tandberg's RDX QuikStor, in contrast, are built around a complete hard drive with media, motor and read/write heads in a self-contained unit.

The GoVault family of removable hard drives from Quantum, San Jose, Calif., also feature cartridges built around a complete drive.

Tom Kampfer, president and COO of Iomega, called REV the superior solution because it separates the key part of a hard drive, the read/write head, from the rest of the drive, resulting in better protection if a cartridge is dropped.

"The combination of heads, electronics and media in a drive is what causes problems if one is dropped," Kampfer said.

Furthermore, the separation keeps the price of the drive cartridges low, Kampfer said. For instance, when bought in a four-pack, a 70-Gbyte REV drive costs about $62, compared to a list price of $139 for a 40-Gbyte Tandberg drive. "A company's capacity continually climbs," he said. "If you need to buy disk after disk after disk, you can do that with Iomega."

Ken Cruden, executive vice president of Tandberg, said that using a complete hard drive instead of one with the read/write heads in a separate unit results in a start/stop time of about 2 seconds, compared to 6 seconds or 12 seconds for a REV drive. Transfer speed for the Tandberg drives is about 35 Mbytes per second compared to about 25 Mbytes to 30 Mbytes per second for the Rev.

The Tandberg cartridges are based on 2.5-inch mobile PC hard drives, which are protected against being dropped from any angle from up to a meter, Cruden said.

Iomega's REV Loader 560 is an upgraded version of its REV Loader 280, which was introduced in the second quarter. The primary difference between the two is that the new model now works with both the 35-Gbyte and 70-Gbyte cartridges, the latter of which was introduced in July.

The 560 has a raw capacity of up to 560 Gbytes, or over 1 Tbyte with compression. The cartridges move up and down to the drive via an elevator within the enclosure in order to keep the size to that of shoebox, Kampfer said.

Iomega has already sold about 1.3 million REV cartridges and 250,000 drives so far, Kampfer said. "It's really a channel play," he said. "The REV primarily moves through the channel. There's some direct marketers. But to drive disk to replace tape really depends on the channel."

Tandberg's new RDX QuickStor is a result of a technology deal the company signed with removable hard drive maker ProStor Systems, Boulder, Colo., back in June.

Cruden said that Tandberg is offering two versions of the RDX QuickStor drive bay, including an internal version to fit in a 3.5-inch hard drive bay and an external version with a USB 2.0 interface. The removable drive cartridges come in 40-Gbyte, 80-Gbyte and 120-Gbyte sizes. Cruden said he expects 160-Gbyte drive cartridges to be available early next year, with 250-Gbyte and 300-Gbyte versions possible in the third quarter of 2007.

The drive cartridges have an LED indicator to show whether the cartridge is functioning properly and to show when it is writing data.

Tandberg does not yet have an autoloader based on the removable hard drives. However, Cruden said, the cartridges have a place for a gripper that an autoloader would use. "So it's possible in the future," he said.

The Iomega REV Loader 560 is available with a street price of about $1,600. REV 70-Gbyte hard drives sell for about $69, or four for about $250.

Tandberg's RDX QuickStor drive bay is available for a starting price of about $354. The 40-Gbyte cartridges start at about $139. A kit featuring the drive bay, a cartridge, SATA and power cables, and Symantec Backup Exec Quickstart software is also available.

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