DVD Or MO? You Make The Call!
Optical executives believe VARs should be familiar with both technologies, which will enable them to choose the right format for a specific job.
DVD has been one of the fastest-growing technologies ever to hit the market. In the storage market, DVD is a welcome addition, as it can store 4.7 GB on a 120-mm disk. Dean Sanderson, director of product marketing at HP (Palo Alto, CA), believes DVD has a lot of advantages over tape in the office environment. "It has to do with random access, which makes it easier for users to get to the data they need," he says. "For an archive medium, DVD is great."
With DVD being used in both storage and entertainment, Sanderson believes there will be lower component costs and economies of scale that will really bring DVD products down into affordable areas for customers. "We expect in the next couple of years that the DVD recorder device, at least in a desktop environment, is going to replace all of the other removable storage devices. There is also an upside to the storage capacity on DVD. Right now we are at 4.7 GB on one side. On a cost per MB basis, it works out to less than a penny per MB and is going down. Write-once disks right now run around $2. Rewritable disks are around $3 and heading down. By the end of this year, you will probably be able to get a disk for around 50 cents in a spindle configuration."
Faster Data Access With DVD
Chuck Larabie, VP of marketing for automation vendor ASACA (Golden, CO), believes the emerging markets that are embracing DVD technology are the rich media markets, including entertainment, broadcasting, and post-production. "This is where you see companies wanting to put their content on a media type that gives them long historical preservation properties," he says. "This solves a couple of different needs for many end user customers. One of them is access to content. A typical DVD robotic system can access and deliver content fast. We can deliver data from our product in about 28 seconds. Only the most expensive tapes can access data that fast. And because DVD is a laser-based device, it does not have the magnetic issues that tape does."
Larabie also believes DVD may be a good replacement for MO (magneto-optical) technology in some areas, since MO is a more expensive format. Although DVD is less expensive, MO offers faster access times. In determining the right solution for a customer, Larabie believes VARs need to be aware of the different types of DVD formats out on the market (DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW, and DVD-RW). "All of the formats have slightly different characteristics," he says. "If you look at DVD-RAM, the media and recording properties are very similar to MO. Both MO and DVD-RAM are sector-based, phase change technologies. I/O [input/output] rates may be slightly higher in an MO drive, but that is really the only difference."
DVD Automation Needs Grow
Robert Clark, senior VP of sales and marketing at Plasmon (Englewood, CO), believes the current focus in the optical market is on DVD automation. "We saw increased demand last year for larger libraries," he says. "VARs were coming back to us and saying they have customers [including many large hospitals] requiring larger capacities." To respond to those requests, Plasmon has launched a new product line holding 875 to 2,175 slots.
"There is a growing requirement in the market to store data on permanent media that cannot be rewritten," he says. "DVD-R is a write-once, read-many [WORM] technology. The technology meets a lot of regulatory requirements because once written, it is permanent. This is not an electronic type of permanent recording. It is a phase-change process in the media itself that cannot be reversed."
Clark also notes the price/performance trade-off between DVD and MO but believes the decision to recommend one or the other comes down to archive life. "Customers want something less expensive than MO but that provides the same type of permanency," he says. "Because MO comes in a cartridge, its life expectancy is over 50 years. The life expectancy of a piece of DVD media is about 15 years. The decision for a VAR or customer often comes down to a regulatory issue. Financial companies needing to store information for 2 generations of a family will use MO, whereas a hospital needing to keep records on a patient for seven years will meet their needs with DVD. Therefore VARs need to be selling both."
90 mm Or 130 mm?
Fujitsu (Tokyo) also offers MO solutions, but it may not be the same MO many VARs have used in the past. Dan Dalton, director of optical products at Fujitsu, notes his company manufactures a 90 mm MO disk that is about the size of a diskette. "It is very different from the HP/Plasmon line that is a 5.25-inch, 130 mm technology," he says. "Our disk is low-cost and has the same reliability and archival life as the 130 mm technology. We believe the markets for MO and DVD are vastly different than for the 90 mm MO product."
The 90 mm product features 1.3 GB and 2.3 GB removable disk cartridges. The cost is less than $20 for the 2.3 GB disk and around $12 for the 1.3 GB disk. "Many users in an office-type environment that use removable media typically have 10 to 20 disks per drive," says Dalton. The cost savings are huge when compared to the Jazz solution or the Castlewood (Livermore, CA) Orb solution, where disks run anywhere from $30 to $100.
Right now the biggest vertical market for 90 mm MO is the medical imaging environment. "We are standard on most ultrasound systems because we are the recommended solution of DICOM [Digital Imaging Consortium of Medicine], the governing group that approves disk standards for medical imaging applications," says Dalton. "With the new 2.3 GB capacity, we see this technology as an ideal solution for any company that requires rugged, removable storage. Financial, government, and the military are also good markets."
VARs certainly need to be on top of emerging DVD and MO advancements. Keeping up with these technologies will help VARs ensure they are passing accurate information along to their customers and staying up-to-date on what may be coming around the corner.