Disk drive maker unwinds tape killer

Prices for a docking unit and a 40GB removable cartridge start at $303

Tandberg Data ASA has introduced a disk-based backup product with removable cartridges for small and medium-size businesses. It claims the drive is cheaper and much faster than other entry-level tape formats such as DAT-72, Travan or DLT tape drives.

The RDX QuikStor is a cartridge containing a ProStor 2.5-in. mobile hard drive with capacity of 40GB, 80GB or 120GB. It can withstand a drop of 3 feet onto a concrete floor without damage and has an estimated 10-year life span, Tandberg said.

The removable drive is inserted into a docking unit which comes in either a 3.5-in. or 5.25-in. form factor and comes as either an internal unit using Serial ATA 1, or an external unit using USB 2.0 connectors. The drive is SATA 2-compatible and has a data transfer rate of 30MB/sec., the Oslo-based company said. Travan drives transfer data at 3MB/sec., or ten times slower than RDX, and the DAT-72 is about 7.5 times slower than RDX. The Tandberg product is also faster than DLT Version 4; the RDX backs up 80GB in under an hour. DLT 4 takes over two hours, while Travan will take more than seven hours, according to vendor specs.

The RDX cartridge has a mean time between failures (MTBF) of 500,000 hours. The Travan MTBF figure is 40,000 hours and DAT-72's is 50,000 hours. A Travan or DAT-72 tape cartridge can be used 50 to 100 times before it has to be replaced whereas the RDX cartridge has a 5,000 times load/unload cycle, the company said.

RDX restores at disk access speeds, since there is no need to wait for a tape to rewind.

Another RDX advantage is that the docking unit is compatible with future cartridge drive capacities and recording technologies. It's anticipated that 400GB RDX cartridges will be available in a few years. There is a standard drive docking unit interface that is independent of the drive's recording method and capacity. The docking unit has both forward and backward compatibility unlike a tape drive, which will generally have backward compatibility but not forward compatibility. For example, an LTO3 drive will not read LTO4 tapes.

In comparison, San Diego-based Iomega Corp.'s basic REV removable hard disk comes with 35GB capacity cartridges and a 25MB/sec. I/O rate. An REV cartridge is a disk platter and not the drive motor and read/write head. These are part of the REV drive unit into which the cartridge is inserted. An upgraded REV disk has a 70GB capacity and matches RDX with a 30MB/sec transfer rate.

Imation Corp. in Oakdale, Minn., sells removable tape drive emulators under the brand name Ulysses. The Ulysses disk drive has data transfer rates of 30MB/sec., and the cartridges store up to 100GB and can fit into tape library drive slots. Imation also sells the Odyssey removable disk, which is a 2.5-in. Serial ATA hard drive and fits into a 3.5-in. drive bay and also has data transfer rates of 30MB/sec.

Tandberg's RDX QuikStor comes with Symantec Backup Exec QS. Prices for a docking unit and 40GB cartridge start at $303. A 40GB cartridge costs about $123. Both are available now.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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