BY HEIDI BIGGAR
After a protracted delay, Quantum last month announced that it has begun shipping Super DLTtape I drives and media. Unlike preliminary units shipped in November, these drives feature full backward read-compatibility with previous DLT generations, going back to the DLT 4000 and including the DLT1 from Benchmark Storage.
Initially, Super DLT drives and media will be available under the Quantum label (SDLT 220) and, through an OEM deal, the Compaq StorageWorks label (StorageWorks DLT 110/210), although Tandberg Data is slated to begin manufacturing the drives at its Oslo, Norway, facility this month. Tandberg signed on as a second-source supplier of DLT drives in September 1999.
In terms of automation support, Quantum says users should look for fully integrated libraries from vendors such as ADIC and Quantum/ATL within 30 to 60 days.
"We've worked with them and other leading OEMs and automation vendors from the beginning of the Super DLTtape development process," says Tom Merkle, product line manager for Quantum's DLTtape Group. "They were in with us on the ground floor, as part of our Customer Engagement Program (CEP), defining, designing, and developing the Super DLT platform."
CEP participants include library vendors ADIC, Breece Hill, Overland Data, Quantum/ATL, and StorageTek; five major systems vendors (including Com-paq and Dell); and Tandberg.
Even though it had a six-month head start, Linear Tape Open (LTO) Ultrium-Super DLT's key competitor in midrange and high-end markets-has no clear advantage over Super DLT, despite remarkably similar capacity/performance specifications, analysts say.
LTO Ultrium is based on an open- standard tape architecture-developed by Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Seagate-that allows for the inter-change of both drives and media. LTO Ultrium drives feature a 100GB native capacity with transfer rates to 15MBps, compared to 110GB of capacity and an 11MBps transfer rate for Super DLT (see "Midrange Tape Wars, InfoStor, September 2000, p. 24).
"DLT's huge installed base cancels out [any negative effects] of its delayed market entry," says Bob Amatruda, a research analyst with International Data Corp., an industry research firm. "Besides, the tape market is measured in years, not quarters."
Quantum reports an installed base in excess of 1.5 million DLTtape drives and 55 million DLTtape cartridges. More than 530,000 DLT drives are expected to ship this year, versus 90,000 for LTO Ultrium, according to Freeman Reports.
The Super DLT road map calls for two or three drive iterations over the next two years. "We plan to introduce new drives every 12 to 14 months, leading up to a 1TB/160MBps product in 2003," says Merkle.
Company officials say a laser-guided magnetic recording (LGMR) system, magneto-resistive cluster heads, PRML technology, and advanced metal particle media are key to the technology's scalability.
Next-generation drives will feature improvements in both capacity and performance. Super DLT II is scheduled for delivery by year-end; plans for an 80GB/8MBps interim drive have been shelved.
Expected street pricing for the SDLT 220 is $5,000 to $5,500, depending on the configuration; Super DLT I media will list for $149.95. Imation, Fujifilm, and Maxell are expected to supply the media.