Benchmark extends DLT into low end

Benchmark extends DLT into low end

Heidi Biggar

Breaking its yearlong silence, Boulder, Colorado startup Benchmark Tape Systems earlier this month disclosed full product and pricing information for its DLT-derivative tape family. Like newcomers Ecrix and OnStream, Benchmark is targeting the high-growth low-end server market currently dominated by DDS.

"We`re going after price-sensitive users who are concerned with the road map and reliability of DDS," says Mike Befeler, Benchmark`s vice president of marketing.

Specifically, Benchmark hopes to secure a spot in networked NT server environments in small to midsize businesses and on RISC-based high-performance workstations. Its three-generation road map extends through 2001, with a near doubling of capacity and performance each year (see figure).

The first-generation $1,299 Bench-mark DLT1 drive features a 40GB native capacity and a 3MBps transfer. Based on a variable recording single-channel DLT technology originally developed by Quantum and licensed to Benchmark in 1998, the drive is read compatible with Quantum`s DLT4000 format and uses standard DLTIV media.

By retaining backward read compatibility with the DLT4000, Benchmark effectively extends DLT`s reach into the price-sensitive low-end market, while lending credibility to Benchmark`s efforts.

"Read compatibility with the DLT4000 is a big plus," says Bob Amatruda, an analyst with Framingham, MA-based International Data Corp., a market research company. "It gives users investment protection."

However, analysts caution that DDS` firmly entrenched position makes any play in this space somewhat of an uphill battle. Other potential obstacles include DLT1`s 2/3-form factor, comparatively high media pricing ($77 per cartridge), and an uncertain relationship with Quantum.

"Benchmark DLT1 could be a very attractive part of [Quantum`s] umbrella, but we`re proceeding with the basic assumption that any relationship will be at an arm`s length," says Befeler.

Quantum would not comment on its involvement with Benchmark except to acknowledge its minority equity share in the startup.

On the upside, Benchmark appears to have garnered the attention of library manufacturers. Out of the gate, Benchmark is delivering a DLT7 autoloader, which it is OEMing from ADIC under a two-way strategic agreement between the two companies. The seven-cartridge 280GB autoloader is available in desktop or rack-mount configurations and is priced at $4,179.

ADIC says it plans to integrate the drive into its automation line, starting with its FastStor series.

"Integration into FastStor has been easy, and it should be even smoother for higher-end libraries," says Steve Whitner, vice president of marketing at ADIC. The only integration issue has been the format of the Benchmark DLTIV media, which writes in a higher density than standard DLTIV media.

DLT1 drives are being manufactured by Singapore-based Uraco. Volume shipments were expected mid-month.

This article was originally published on September 01, 1999