Setting off storage fireworks

Between Adaptec's acquisition plans and rivalries between Quantum and Sony, summer storage news shows no sign of slowing

The Fourth of July was quite a few weeks ago but the fireworks in the storage industry -- regardless of the advanced summer season -- haven't stopped yet. It makes you wonder if the people working in this business ever take vacations. 

Take for example, the Adaptec-Snap Appliance  pyrotechnics. If everything goes as planned, the new Adaptec will emerge from that acquisition with a significantly broader portfolio of products, spanning everything from controllers to unified storage arrays.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, good for you: You must have been on vacation. As a quick recap, Adaptec announced on July 13 the intent to acquire Snap Appliance for about $100 million. The new company resulting from that acquisition will include products and technologies from both partners.

Obviously, blending technologies from the two companies should be good for customers because they will be able to shop from an extended portfolio, but it is also good for Adaptec, which should be able to spread R&D costs over a larger revenue pie.

It's easy to see that the two companies' products are for the most part complementary, with Snap Appliance carrying a well-established NAS flag, whereas Adaptec's strength lies in RAID controllers and storage I/O components. 

With that in mind, the new Adaptec should be better equipped to face long-term rivals in both areas, including archrival LSI Logic and the variegated galaxy of NAS and SAN array vendors. After the acquisition, Adaptec will concentrate its entire storage system business in a new division, led by Snap Appliance CEO Eric Kelly, which is an interesting move, because LSI Logic has a separate storage entity, too -- actually, a separate company recently renamed Engenio Information Technologies.

Speaking of rivalries, Quantum and Sony managed to fire rockets at each other and at other competitors in the tape field just days apart (unknowingly, I have to assume). The first salvo came from Quantum announcing the long-awaited WORM capability for its SDLT (super digital linear tape) line.

Obviously, WORM means a great deal to the numerous Quantum customers who may need to prove impeccable and unmodified archiving of sensible data to their statutory auditors. 

Quantum's WORM news follows similar announcements from IBM, Sony, and StorageTek. Quantum's new WORM capability, improbably named DLTIce, will be essentially a no-cost update, but available only to SDLT 600 customers.

In fact, according to Quantum, DLTIce doesn't require specific cartridges and can be easily implemented on normal tape drives after a firmware update. Also interesting is DLTIce's ability to return a WORM tape to its normal read-write duty, a possibility that Quantum competitors don't offer at the moment.

Wondering how Sony responded to DLTIce? By announcing a new tape drive in its 8mm AIT (advanced intelligent tape) line, of course.

The new Sony AIT-4 can store 200GB of uncompressed data on a single cartridge and sustain a transfer rate of 24MBps, doubling both capacity and speed over the previous AIT-3 model.

Backward compatibility is always in jeopardy when there is such a performance gap between models, but Sony assures me that the AIT-4 can read and write AIT-3 tapes and still read cartridges created on older units.

Sony predicts a not-too-expensive retail price for the AIT-4 that should float near $3,500 for an internal drive, with cartridges running about $85 apiece. The new units will maintain all the technical characteristics of their predecessors, including WORM capability.

The AIT-4 is big news, but what I consider the most important part of Sony's announcement is that the company is working on future AIT-5 and AIT-6 drives. Technical details and availability dates where not disclosed at this time -- no big deal, I can wait for a future Fourth of July explosion. But it's reassuring to know that something worth celebrating is already in the works. 


Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.