MO Is Hot Once Again
New MO (magneto-optical) products will challenge DVD and heat up the optical storage market for VARs
Although MO (magneto-optical) was once a hot storage medium, its popularity has waned in recent years thanks to new technologies such as DVD and price points that were a bit too high for many users. But get ready for a resurgence in the MO market. New MO products and a lower price point may have many of your customers taking a new look at the technology.
"The new blue laser technology will definitely help drive a resurgence in MO," says Tom Sas, product manager for HP Automated Storage (Palo Alto, CA). "One of the new technologies VARs want to keep an eye on is UDO [ultra density optical]. I think it will help open up some markets that have not been receptive to MO products in the past."
In the last few years, many companies have been looking carefully at their cost per GB. Anytime the economy is soft, a lot of companies will review their budgets and IT spending. Sas believes DVD has gained momentum in the optical market simply because of its cost. "DVD is definitely a cheaper solution than MO when you look at the cost per GB," he says. "The cost of MO has not kept pace with the cost savings other technologies have seen."
However, UDO will triple the capacity of existing MO products. The cost of the media has also come down. The lower cost will make the solution more attractive in the financial, medical, and government markets and for any business with a long-term archiving need.
Rugged Enough For Any Application
While the lower price and higher capacity will be attractive to many users, two of the primary features of MO have always been its ruggedness and durability. It is not uncommon at trade shows to see MO vendors drop a disc into a bowl of water and then retrieve data from it. Dan Dalton, director of optical products at Fujitsu Computer Products (San Jose, CA), notes that all MO products tout an archival life of 50 years and have been strong performers in the medical and telecommunications markets.
DVD, on the other hand, has been pushed hard in the consumer market. "We have seen DVD used in some enterprise applications, primarily in library systems with hundreds of discs," he says. "But we do not see DVD conflicting with the MO market, which is focused on the high-reliability, systems backup market. A lot of companies do not need GBs or TBs of storage. They need 1 or 2 GB of storage, but need the durable archival media to protect it."
In addition to the ruggedness, Dalton recommends that VARs not forget that the technology has been around for more than 10 years. "It is not going away, as some in the industry have said," he asserts. "The technology is still here and there are many viable uses, especially in medical, government, financial, and the military. Those verticals need the reliability MO provides."
Keep An Eye On UDO
Todd Deveney, VP of operations at QStar Technologies (Fort Walton Beach, FL), agrees with Sas that VARs need to keep a close eye on UDO. He also believes the MO market has been flat in recent years due to many optical customers getting into DVD. However, that may soon change.
"New MO products are going to bring a lot of companies back to the MO market," says Deveney. "With these new products tripling the current capacities and giving customers a much better cost-per-GB, customers will find they can get DVD-type prices from a proven optical technology. DVD has only been around for a couple of years. MO is a secure medium, and UDO will continue that reliability trend and bring customers back to the technology."
When VARs pitch the technology, Deveney recommends they play up the robustness of the product and its track record. MO is also a true WORM (write once, read many) solution, which many customers need. MO should be a big hit in companies needing to archive e-mails. He also believes the medical, financial, and government markets will be the primary users of MO.
Current Data Needs To Be Protected
Dave Dupont, VP of marketing at Plasmon (Englewood, CO), believes compliance with government regulations will bring a huge boost to the MO market. "Optical storage is focused on professional archiving," he says. "There has been an increased demand for archiving solutions because of the need for compliance with regulations that are being passed, especially in healthcare and financial services. The growth in optical storage solutions is also related to the growing threat of litigation. This is different from regulations because it is more related to businesses protecting themselves against the threat of lawsuits."
But in addition to regulations and litigation, there is also an increasing recognition by customers of the value of data over the long term. As labor costs go up and it gets more expensive to generate information, the value of information that has already been generated increases. Dupont points to the oil and gas industries. "Companies continue to use seismic data from decades ago, combined with recent well log information, to make decisions," he says. "The same thing is happening in the graphics and pre-production markets. When a high degree of intellectual activity goes into something, there is a great desire to access the data created from that activity. Those three trends are fueling the increase in the demand for archiving."
For many years MO was a great solution, but at some point it fell behind other solutions in terms of cost. Recent innovations have put optical back on the cost curve. There is now a significant opportunity for the reseller channel to put together archiving solutions for their customers. Customers are looking for solutions that comprise both hardware and the software. Understanding what kind of solution the customer needs and then building it will create opportunities for all VARs to be successful in the optical market.