Iomega plans 35G-byte removable storage in 2004

Iomega Corp. is planning to launch two removable magnetic-based storage formats in the first half of next year, one aimed at small and medium enterprises and the other at consumer users, company executives said Monday.

The first of the two to be launched, Removable Rigid Disk (RRD), will offer a capacity of 35GB per cartridge and is targeted primarily at small and medium enterprises, said Scott Sheehan, vice-president of business development at Iomega, at a news conference in Tokyo. The cartridge contains the media platter and spindle motor parts of a hard disk while the drive includes the read/write head, eject mechanism and interface.

“We see potential for RRD in a number of areas, primarily as tape replacement in small and medium businesses where tape is currently used for back-up and recovery,” said Sheehan.

Chief competitors of the format will include Digital Data Storage (DDS), Travan and low-end Digital Linear Tape (DLT), according to Sheehan. He said RRD will offer potential users a number of advantages over those and other tape and optical disc-based back-up formats because it will combine the speed and performance of a hard disk drive with the portability those competing products.

Provisional specifications issued by Iomega show an average data transfer rate of 18MB/sec. That compares favourably to a rate of up to 3MB/sec. for DLT, 2MB/sec. for Travan and around 5.5MB/sec. for recordable DVD, according to Iomega. File access time is similarly fast at around 13 milliseconds.

“What this means to small system business users is that a typical 20GB back-up will take 20 minutes instead of two hours,” he said.

RRD is also bootable and Iomega has developed a system called “boot and run” that will make it possible to launch a system directly from a back-up in the event of a system failure, said Sheehan.

“We will announce the product at Comdex,” he said referring to the Comdex 2003 trade show that will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, from Nov. 17. Iomega will demonstrate working prototypes of RRD at the show and interoperability with servers from Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and NEC Corp. and back-up software from Computer Associates International Inc., Veritas Software Corp. and Dantz Development Corp.

Commercial availability of drives is scheduled for the first quarter of 2004 and Iomega expects to have products supporting USB, ATAPI, SCSI and Serial ATA interfaces, he said. Drives are projected to cost US$349 with each 35GB cartridge costing between US$39 and US$49, according to Sheehan.

The second of the two formats coming from the company in the first half of next year is Digital Capture Technology (DCT).

DCT disks are around five centimetres in diameter and look similar to the company’s now defunct Pocket Zip, or Clik, disks but can hold much more data. First generation versions will have a capacity of 1.5GB compared to the 40MB of Pocket Zip. Drives will either be available for integration into products or, like the earlier Pocket Zip format, in a PC Card form factor that can be plugged into a personal computer or other device.

The system is targeted at use in digital consumer electronics and Iomega is already in discussion with a number of such companies, said Sheehan. He declined to reveal the identity of the companies although said possible products include digital camcorders, portable video players, portable music players and devices with PC Card slots such as televisions.

DCT will be launched at the Consumer Electronics Show, which is scheduled to take place in Las Vegas in January next year, and Iomega expects to commercially launch the format in the latter part of the second quarter. The PC Card drives are expected to cost around US$149 and disks will cost around US$10 each, said Sheehan.

Iomega’s roadmap for the technology calls for disk capacity to double within two years of launch and double again with two years after that, he said. The company is also looking at smaller form factors, such as Compact Flash, based on the same technology. As a minimum Iomega expects a CF version would have a capacity of 1GB if commercialized, said Sheehan.