Now Is The Time To Go After The DDS Market
Scalability and future generations of product should be considerations for VARs seeking a replacement tape technology.
Digital data storage (DDS) is the industry standard for digital audio tape (DAT) and the backup tape leader in the small to medium business segment. The latest format is DDS-4, and we already know there will not be a fifth generation of the product. End users who have been storing records on DDS will now have a problem — the lack of a product that is backward compatible. Now is a good time for VARs to move these customers into a new tape technology.
DLT1: Scalable And Affordable
Steven Berens, executive director of marketing for Boulder, CO-based Benchmark Tape Systems, believes the most important factor for VARs to consider is scalability. "The two major formats in the market today are DDS and DLT (digital linear tape)," said Berens. "DDS has reached a technology point where it has a limited future. DLT1, however, is at the start of its technology curve and has a good future and increased performance." Berens feels customers who only want one format are now walking away from DDS. Those customers also have the option of going with Super DLT products, which are just beginning to ship.
"This gives a strong message to the market that you can take one media cartridge and use it for all the different applications of a business, regardless of the size of the business," said Berens. He believes this is a strong aspect of the DLT product mix, and something that LTO does not offer and DDS will no longer offer. "Currently there are three vendors offering LTO products," said Berens. "Nobody is offering a version of the product that would go slower and cost significantly less. LTO drives are in the $6,000 to $9,000 price range. Not everyone can afford to get into that price point." DLT1 is the value series of the DLT line. Berens added, "This enables the customer to scale one cartridge implementation throughout the entire enterprise."
Don't Overlook SLR
Jack Robinson, corporate marketing director for Simi Valley, CA-based Tandberg Data, agrees that DLT1 is a good, scalable solution for DDS users. However, he stressed that VARs should not overlook the scalable linear recording (SLR) technology. Tandberg offers both SLR and DLT1 tape drives.
"Tape backup is a headache for most customers," said Robinson. "If customers make a switch, they need to know the technology will grow with them as their needs grow. The technology better be scalable and have a well-defined, future generation of products. They do not want to face this situation again in two or three years." The SLR40 offers a capacity of 20 gigabytes and a transfer rate of three megabytes per second, the same as the current DDS product. The SLR60, which is already on the market, offers 30 gigabytes with a transfer rate of four megabytes per second while the SLR100 is a 50-gigabyte product with a five megabyte-per-second transfer rate. The DLT1 product falls between the SLR60 and the SLR100, offering 40 gigabytes and three megabytes per second.
DLT1 Or SLR?
Does this mean DLT1 and SLR will compete for the same DDS users? At this point it is hard to say. If a customer is simply looking at cost, DLT1 has a street price of $1,300 while the SLR40 has just slipped below the $1,000 threshold. As is typically the case, VARs should first look at the needs of the customer. If customers are looking for the best performance and scalability in a tape drive without going into the $6,000 LTO or Super DLT class, then DLT is the right choice. However, if their capacity needs will grow at a slower rate, say 10 to 20 gigabytes per year over the next several years, SLR may be the better move.