UDO replacing MO faster than expected, says Plasmon

The ultra-density optical (UDO) disc and drive format is replacing magneto optical (MO) technology faster than expected,...

The ultra-density optical (UDO) disc and drive format is replacing magneto optical (MO) technology faster than expected, according to technology developer Plasmon's president.

UDO was launched in November 2003 and uses a blue laser to store up to 30Gbytes of data on a disc a little larger than a CD or DVD.

It has been positioned by Plasmon to replace MO in the data archiving space as UDO cartridges are almost identical to those used with MO.

This means it is easy to mix and match MO and UDO drives in the same library, said Chris Harris, president of Plasmon.

Initial sales of the system were hampered by lack of support for UDO in software packages used to control data libraries. However, the last major software maker to add support, EMC's Legato, did so in June, said Harris.

On the hardware side, drives are available in libraries from Plasmon and Hewlett-Packard's StorageWorks line. Plasmon said in its first 10 months on the market more than 2Pbytes of UDO archival storage library capacity has been shipped. A petabyte is one million gigabytes.

"Since we've launched UDO, we've seen a 26% growth in Plasmon group unit sales for 5.25in libraries and also see a big switch from MO to UDO," said Harris. "Many vendors offer support for both [MO and UDO] and we thought it would be important but we've seen a big switch from libraries with MO-only to UDO-only."

Cost is seen as a big driver. Figures from Plasmon show the total cost of ownership of UDO is significantly cheaper than MO and just a little higher than DVD. The format is also hitting DVD shipments into the professional space because it is much more reliable, said Harris.

"In professional storage, DVD has had its day," he said. "Our customers, especially those in the medical field, are fed up of DVD. It's consumer, it's ubiquitous, and they tend to buy the cheapest spindle-media but they find it's not quite compliant and they have problems losing data."

"We've positioned [UDO] as price competitive to DVD so they are keen to switch," he said.

The discs cost about $60 (£33) for a recordable disc and $70 for a rewritable disc - prices that Harris doesn't see coming down until volume increases. However, the company plans to make higher capacity discs at the same price as existing products so the price per bit is expected to fall.

Last year when it launched UDO, Plasmon said it would produce a 60Gbyte disc in 2005 and a 120Gbyte disc in 2007 but both these dates have slipped, said Harris. The new date for the 60Gbyte media is mid-2006 and the 120Gbyte disc should be available around the end of 2008, he said.

The reliability of UDO drives and discs has proved high, said Harris.

"We've shipped thousands of drives and we've had three back," he said. "In one we could find no problems, one had been dropped and one had a cable loose."

At present UDO has few rivals but one is from Sony. The company has produced a modified version of the consumer Blu-ray Disc technology under the name Professional Disc for Data (PDD) and is selling two versions, one aimed at the same data archiving market as UDO and the other at the broadcasting industry.

Martyn Williams writes for IDG News Service

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