Sifting Through Mass Storage Options
VARs and end users continue to play the waiting game when it comes to DVD (digital videodisk) technology. However, there are still mass storage sales to be made.
It is safe to say that DVD (digital videodisk) is a storage media with tremendous potential. And, how couldn't it be? DVDs look just like CDs, but have more than seven times the storage capacity of CDs. DVD-ROM drives read both DVDs and CDs, which should make for a smooth migration path. However, the word "potential" continues to be linked to DVD technology. While manufacturers of DVD technology continue to develop competing products, VARs largely remain on the sidelines waiting for potential to become reality.
Competing For Market Share
A standard DVD-ROM can store 4.7 GB of data on a single side. Beyond that, there are many flavors of DVD either shipping or under development. Pioneer is the only company shipping a DVD-R (write-once recordable) drive, and the media it produces holds 3.95 GB of data per side. DVD-RAM (rewritable) drives are being produced and shipped by several companies. DVD-RAM media can store 2.6 GB of data on each side of a disk. DVD+RW is another rewritable technology being developed by Sony, Philips, and Hewlett-Packard. DVD+RW disks have a capacity of 3 GB per side. Pioneer is developing its own rewritable technology called DVD-RW. The DVD-RW media will be able to store 3.95 GB of data per side.
"VARs are definitely in a quandary," says Scott Fast, western regional sales manager at Micro Design International (MDI). "DVD is a wonderful technology. But if VARs can't sell DVD jukeboxes, they will explore other storage options that are being developed." MDI is located in Winter Park, FL, and has 62 employees. The company was founded in 1978 and manufacturers both hardware and software storage solutions.
Should You Try To Sell DVD?
Many jukeboxes in use today are for archival storage on CD. The jukeboxes have read/write capabilities which allow end users to access data and also write once to a CD. According to Fast, DVD jukeboxes currently being developed do not have that same functionality. "DVD-R drives cost about $17,000 and DVD-R media is about $80 per disk. DVD-RAM drives are available for about $700," says Fast. With such a large price disparity, he says DVD jukeboxes will probably be configured with DVD-RAM drives instead of DVD-R drives. If this is the case, Fast says DVD jukeboxes will not replace current CD jukeboxes. Rather, they will compete with MO (magneto-optic) for a share of the rewritable storage market. "VARs are being pigeonholed into selling DVD-RAM, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are going to sell it," says Fast. "For mass storage applications, most VARs will continue to sell CD-R and MO. DVD-RAM is only an option if a customer refuses to use MO."
According to Fred Bedard, director and general manager of the integrated storage products division of Sony CCPG, VARs should continue to sell CD technology that is available today. Sony CCPG is located in San Jose, CA. "Sales of CD libraries were down the first half of 1998, but are rebounding in the second half," says Bedard. "One of the reasons for the first-half decline is that end users were waiting for DVD. End users are now comfortable with the fact that DVD libraries are not going to be available any time soon. Consequently, sales of CD libraries are rising again." Because of the backwards compatibility of DVD, Bedard says end users should continue to buy CD technology. When DVD technology is available, CD libraries can be upgraded to protect an end user's investment.
New Technologies Open Market
DVD-RAM is not competing solely with MO for space in the rewritable market, says Joe Pollock, software product manager at MDI. "Companies like TeraStor and Quinta are using new recording methods and developing products that will challenge MO. And, the low cost of hard drives continues to affect the entire storage market," comments Pollock. "End users will likely keep the CD jukeboxes that they have. Any additional storage concerns can be addressed with a massive RAID (redundant array of independent disks) system. End users will not be buying DVD mass storage solutions this year."
Sony, Philips, Hewlett-Packard, and several other large vendors are currently developing DVD+RW technology. Sony's Bedard says that DVD+RW technology may be shown at this year's Comdex show and there are plans to start shipping by the middle of 1999. "DVD-RAM hit the market before DVD+RW, but there has not been a mass acceptance of the technology," says Bedard. "End users see the big companies that are working on DVD+RW and are waiting to see what the final product will look like." Bedard doesn't see DVD+RW impacting the MO market to any significant extent. He predicts that DVD+RW will only replace MO in some low-end applications. Conversely, Bedard says that DVD+RW will be a replacement for current CD-RW applications.
A Future For DVD-R Technology
Currently, Pioneer is the only company shipping DVD-R technology. However, Bedard says that if Pioneer can reduce the cost of the drive in future generations, DVD-R technology will have a significant impact. "The high price reflects the technology that is in the drive. The components in a DVD-R drive are very expensive and sophisticated," says Bedard. "There is a large market for WORM (write once read many) technology. Most end users in this market are using CD-R, but that media only stores 650 MB. Eventually the price of DVD-R will come down and, at that point, the technology will be a real winner."