The market for tape drives may be declining, but that doesn't mean it's dead or unprofitable, declared Tandberg Data as it launched a European version of the VXA Alliance, its vehicle for convincing resellers to adopt the ex-Exabyte VXA tape format.
Tandberg corporate marketeer Marije Stijnen claimed that a reduced emphasis on mid-range tape from other vendors makes it a good time to push VXA autoloaders.
"We think what's happening in the market - with Quantum no longer developing DLT, and HP apparently having problems getting the next-generation DAT to the right cost point because it needs two heads for backwards compatibility - makes it a good time to promote VXA. This is still a huge market," she said.
The question is how much investment a declining market can justify, suggested IDC research director Ian Allison. "I wonder what sort of return they're expecting," he said. "Low-end tape volumes are dropping, and the midrange action is mostly around LTO."
Stijnen countered: "We just announced our LTO-4 drives, and we have RDX too for people who want disk-to-disk backup, but there's a lot of customers who still want entry-level tape automation." She added that a VXA-320 Packetloader, capable of holding 10 cartridges and therefore 3.2TB, sells for around $2,300 (£1,165).
"Awareness of backup has grown recently, so we hope to convert small businesses who've not done much backup before, or maybe were struggling with single drives. Tandberg Data is 100 per cent channel, so what we want to do is roadshows across Europe to introduce resellers to VXA."
The founders of the VXA Alliance were Tandberg, which is the only source of VXA drives, and four VXA media manufacturers - Imation, Panasonic, Sony and TDK (although these are now down to three). Other members include Adaptec, backup software developers CA, EMC-Dantz and Symantec, and distributors Ingram Micro and TechData.
Stijnen said that while Exabyte had a strong channel in the US, its sales in Europe were mostly through its drive OEMs, which include Apple, Fujitsu-Siemens, and IBM.
Tandberg, which bought Exabyte last year, is currently developing the fourth generation of VXA. It says this will double the speed and capacity of today's VXA-320, which stores 160MB per cartridge - 320MB with data compression - and transfers uncompressed data at 12MB/s.
VXA's big selling point, according to the manufacturer, is that it writes data as packets rather than tracks, and uses a four-level Reed-Solomon error correction code. Tandberg claims this increases its speed and reliability, and makes restoring a backup much more likely to succeed. ®