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Tape drives are fast enough, says Quantum

Rules out LTO as it begins the hunt for DLT's fatter successor

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Quantum is to stop chasing extra performance for its tape drives and concentrate on capacity instead. Its latest roadmap proposes a native 10TB per cartridge by 2009, but could see it move away from the DLT platform too.

"The role of tape is changing," says Henrik Hansen, Quantum's new European marketing boss. "It was 80 per cent backup and 20 per cent archiving - now that's almost swapped around, so tape is becoming more of a capacity solution and less focused on speed."

Quantum is also changing its naming scheme to capitalise on the DLT brand. Its SDLT family morphs into the DLT-S (for Super) range, while the Benchmark-derived VS drives become DLT-V (for Value), plus a generation identifier.

The upcoming fourth generation SDLT-1200 therefore becomes the DLT-S4. More importantly, instead of offering 600GB native per cartridge, (around 1200GB after data compression), it will provide 800GB/1.6TB per cartridge.

Hansen says the gain comes from a higher density data format and a longer tape, while the speed of the tape over the read/write head is unchanged. Even at 60MB/sec uncompressed, a DLT-S4 cartridge will therefore take longer to fill than today's 36MB/sec SDLT-600 cartridges. "Staging to disk makes tape speed less important," Hansen says, adding that Quantum has sold a lot of its high-end DX disk caches and is now considering a low-end combination disk and tape appliance similar to Certance's CP 3100. "I think the market is ready for that, it has to be a really attractive cost though," he says.

It's no secret that LTO has put Quantum under severe pressure - Hansen even admits that Quantum's tape library division sells more LTO drives than DLT. So are the changes substantive, or is Quantum reshuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic?

Certainly, the new roadmap looks good and puts Quantum ahead of LTO, at least until the LTO companies renew their roadmaps too - and the game of leapfrog resumes. Could Quantum join LTO? Hansen says it's too late for that.

"With LTO-3 coming up and shipping in automation products early next year, our aim is to have S4 out in the middle of next year," he adds. "Our goal is to offer twice the capacity of LTO with our S series, and twice the capacity of DDS-DAT with the V series."

Quantum also wants to use tape management to stay ahead of its rivals, with its DLTsage reliability and failure-prediction tools and DLTice WORM software.

However, Hansen adds the future 10TB cartridge could well be something other than DLT: "Generation 4 will still be a cartridge, but with generation 5 we are looking potentially at a new platform. We want to continue to provide one generation of backwards compatibility, but at some point you are going to hit the limit of the technology." ®

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