By Ann Silverthorn
—Dell has entered the removable disk-drive market with the PowerVault RD1000, which is designed to back up and restore data for small to medium-sized businesses, branch offices, and individual power users. The new drives will replace Dell's entry-level DAT tape products.
"We've qualified the RD1000 on our PowerEdge servers and on our Precision workstations," says Brett Roscoe, senior manager for Dell Storage. "It's one of the first products that we're driving not only across our server business, but also to the consumer side of our business."
Dell anticipates that the new removable disk drives will be an alternative to the tape drives and CD-RW optical devices that the low end of the market typically uses today. The technology is also expected to ease users who currently don't back up their data into a data-protection solution.
"It's shocking how many people do not back up their data," says Praveen Asthana, director of marketing for Dell Storage. "At the entry level there's hesitation because of the complexity of backing up to tape. And many users don't know how to restore a file from tape."
Some proponents of tape technology warn that a removable hard disk is not as rugged and reliable as a tape cartridge. Dell's Roscoe agrees that tape can survive harsh climates, but says the removable hard drives have been manufactured to make them able to absorb impact like a tape drive.
"The RD1000 disk cartridges can survive a three-foot drop," says Roscoe, "and the life expectancy is around 10 years."
The RD1000 internal Serial ATA (SATA) drives fit inside Dell PowerEdge servers, and the external versions feature a plug-and-play USB connection. Customized software helps users schedule and manage backups and also track the disk media.
File transfer speeds are about the same rate as saving to a PC drive—up to 34MBps. In addition to traditional backups, files can be transferred using the drag-and-drop feature. Dell reports access times of less than one second versus about 30 seconds for tape.
ProStor Systems developed the technology behind the RD1000. ProStor has licensed its removable hard-drive technology to both Imation and Tandberg Data. Although Dell would not comment, Tandberg Data is rumored to be the source of Dell's RD1000.
"We started working with Dell two years ago with their specifications for enterprise tape cartridges—vibration specs, electrostatic discharge, how far you should be able to drop it, and onto what surface," says Steve Georgis, ProStor's CEO. "Dell brands the product as the RD1000. On the inside it's identical to what Tandberg sells and what Imation will bring out in the first quarter of next year."
Other companies that manufacture removable hard drives include vendors such as Iomega and Quantum. Quantum has developed the GoVault drive, and Iomega developed the REV family removable drives, which are available in the company's eight-cartridge autoloaders.
Dell's RD1000 cartridges are available in 40GB, 80GB, and 120GB capacities. Prices range from $300 for the internal model to $500 for the external model. Both products will be available later this month.