By Dave Simpson
September 9, 2008 -- When ProStor Systems and its partners began shipping RDX removable hard disk drive (RHDD) technology almost two years ago, there were questions regarding whether the technology could gain a foothold in a backup market dominated by tape and traditional disk-to-disk (D2D) backup systems. Based on a number of statistics, those questions have been answered. For example, according to ProStor officials,
--More than 85,000 customers are using RDX technology; and
--At an average of 3.5 disk cartridges per dock, which equates to more than 297,500 cartridges shipped, approximately 30 petabytes of RDX capacity have been shipped.
According to IDC, the total market for RHDD drives and media will surge from about $98 million this year to $178 million in 2009 and to $515 million in 2012. IDC pegs RDX's RHDD market share at 90%. (Imation and Quantum also sell removable hard drive products, accounting for the remaining 10% of the market.)
In addition, ProStor has racked up an impressive roster of licensees and OEMs. Licensees include Imation (which also manufactures its own removable disk products) and Tandberg Data, both of which manufacture RDX drives and media. ProStor's value-add lies primarily in its packaging and docking technology.
RDX OEMs include Dell (which was the first major OEM to ship the technology, in late 2006), Fujitsu, Fujitsu Siemens, and NEC. Most recently, ProStor nailed an OEM deal with Hewlett-Packard, which offers HP-branded RDX drives and media on its ProLiant servers and xw workstations.
Earlier this year, ProStor introduced the InfiniVault line of RDX-based storage systems, which have up to 10 removable disks per enclosure (expandable to 100 cartridges) and a NAS head supporting the CIFS and NFS protocols. Online capacity ranges from 700GB to 9TB, and removable disk capacity ranges from 1.5TB to 50TB. The InfiniVault operating system provides functions such as data de-duplication, content indexing, automated retention and deletion, and compliance functionality.
RDX cartridges include standard 2.5-inch SATA drives from the major drive manufacturers. RDX devices have an external USB connection.
ProStor officials claim that RDX drives and media cost less than half the price of DAT tape drives with equivalent capacity.
The next RDX development is expected in the first quarter of 2009, with the introduction of 750GB drives. (The current maximum capacity is 500GB.)
Meanwhile, low-end tape vendors aren't standing still. Hewlett-Packard and Sony, for example, recently announced they will extend the DAT tape format into the next generation. The DAT 320 format will provide a backup speed of 86GB per hour -- assuming 2:1 data compression -- and have a capacity of 320GB per cartridge with 2:1 compression, or twice the capacity and transfer rate of the DAT 160 predecessor. DAT 320 will be backward-compatible with DAT 160.
Both HP and Sony will manufacture DAT 320 drives, and media is expected to be available from a variety of vendors, including Fujifim, Imation, Maxell, and Sony.
Although HP and Sony are jointly developing DAT 320, the two companies will manufacture their own product lines.
DAT 320 products are expected in the first half of 2009, according to Bob Wilson, vice president of storage platforms in HP's StorageWorks division. The drives are expected to be available with USB and SAS interfaces.