Quantum claims to have rewritten the economics of archiving with its new write-once read-many (Worm) tape format that uses standard SDLT II cartridges.
Existing Worm products from IBM, Storage Technology (StorageTek) and Sony require non-standard and non-reusable media, so Quantum's version should be cheaper and simpler to use.
"We are increasing the value of our existing SDLT 600," said Steve Berens, Quantum's senior product marketing and strategy director. He added that the Worm capability, called DLTice, will be offered as a firmware upgrade for current SDLT 600 units and will be standard in future drives.
DLTice uses a new tape format which writes a special header. Worm-capable drives will recognise this and refuse to overwrite the tape. Berens admits that older non-DLTice drives could potentially overwrite Worm media, but said if this happened the changes would immediately be visible because the cartridge's unique signature code would change.
"The big thing is the Ice key on the cartridge - this is a unique ID calculated from the serial number of the drive, the OEM string and the drive's power-on time," he said. "We also keep track of the total megabytes written and the total Worm megabytes written, so we can see if the two don't match.
"It can be destroyed, but not erased. You can degauss any tape, but you lose the Ice key so you know something's changed. It's re-usable too - a lot of people re-use tapes. Some don't because of the risk, but most do - one of the best things about magnetic media is it supports a much higher number of rewrites than optical."
A tape Worm can be created either using Quantum's DLTsage tape maintenance software or via archiving software. Berens said Veritas Software, Computer Associates International and Legato Systems already support DLTice, with others following suit.
"We position it as an easy-to-implement solution for regulatory compliance," he said. "It's cheaper and five to six times faster than most optical systems, and it doesn't require different technology."
Berens said SDLT cartridges would in future come with both standard and Worm labels so the two formats could be differentiated. Rivals, however, argue that a separate media type is still preferable. "For compliance, people tend to want something separate for peace of mind," said Martin Warren, StorageTek's European business manager for automated tape solutions. "Some customers even say they wouldn't want it in the same library. People are uncomfortable about mixing this data."
But he added that archiving was a fairly low portion of the tape business, with its VolSafe Worm media representing "probably less than 10%" of StorageTek's 9840 and 9940 media sales.
"DLTice isn't a threat," he said. "It's another function you can run with that media. Worm functionality is a nice-to-have, but I'm not sure we get sales simply because of Worm - there are other reasons to buy the 9840 besides that."
Bryan Betts writes for Techworld.com