It's Real, It's Now And It's Shipping.
Quantum announced specifically to Computer Technology Review that Super DLTape (SDLT) is now shipping in volume with its non-backward read compatible version. Quantum's Barbara Nelson reported in an exclusive interview that the BRC version will be shipping in general availability in March. Currently, the BRC version of the high-speed, high-availability drive is being shipped only in evaluation quantities.
Nelson indicated that a key challenge in moving the comparatively new products into the marketplace is the variety of requirements and expectations. Says Nelson: "One of the disadvantages [holding] a very strong market position is that you have a broad range of customer requirements that are important to address."
The BRC aspect of the product was something that library and OEM customers wanted as features, as well as the VAR and end-user segments, she continued. But the lack of an immediately shipped BRC does not seem to have inhibited shipments. "On the non-BRC side, Overland Data is shipping libraries and we expect to have other announcements regarding BRC and non-BRC wins later this quarter." Nelson observes.
BRC is certainly part of the company's plans to meet customer requirements. About two-thirds of Quantum's library customers expect BRC drives. One-third, including firms like Overland Data, were ready to go to market with an SDLT library, and BRC was less critical.
The new SDLT format is proceeding along two tracks. "In this market," says Nelson, "there are people with an insatiable hunger for capacity and performance. There is also a track marked by low cost and half-height formats. We're on both of those tracks." Nelson goes on to note that customers need the confidence that a tape format is going to be effective, not only for present needs, but for the future as well.
But while noting this, the Quantum executive realizes that it is important that a tape device should do just what is expected, and not more. Her reasoning is this: "On the one hand, people want the latest and greatest, but they don't want to go through a lot of qualification and re-qualification. Or have a complex set of products." This provides a rationale for an upper end and a lower end product line.
SDLT customers run the gamut. Compaq is a key customer for Quantum, and Nelson reports that Compaq has partnered with Quantum in that "they are totally dedicated to an exclusive with DLT and have not endorsed LTO." This is in contrast to other customers who support SDLT but are qualifying LTO products as well.
More Than An Automation Drive
When asked whether it would be fair to characterize SDLT as an automation-only drive, Nelson responded: "Not really. SDLT is going into both applications. There will be a very strong server-attached application and there will be libraries as well. About 45% of our business is libraries, and the rest is some sort of server-attached product. We see a very strong market in both. The library part of the business is growing faster, but over the next year there will still be a significant amount of super drives sold into server attached."
SDLT, two years hence, may well have a powerful high-capacity track as well as a low-cost track where very attractive performance will couple with a more affordable price. In the DDS market space, Nelson anticipates a significant presence through Benchmark. By then, a significant portion of the DDS space may well be replaced by DLT 1, which is endorsed by both Dell and Hewlett Packard.
Many are targeting the DDS space, and Quantum may meet competition from Sony, Exabyte, and many other midrange products, let alone LTO. But there is little doubt that SDLT is here and being supported by an enthusiastic, competent team. Stay tuned.