Iomega Corp. on Tuesday introduced its Removable Rigid Disk (RRD), a new cartridge hard disk standard that the company said it hopes will return it to the top of the removable-storage market. Due in early 2004, the 2.5-inch format will provide a capacity of 35GB. Aimed primarily at replacing tape backup drives in small business environments, the RRD units will bear a "snazzier name" when they are released, an Iomega product manager explained. Available in the first quarter of 2004 will be external USB and internal ATAPI models, while a version with a Serial ATA interface is planned for the third quarter.
Unlike Iomegas previous Peerless removable drives (and the many competing external USB and FireWire hard drives on the market), the RRD cartridge isnt a complete hard disk mechanism; rather it contains only the platter and the motor. The cartridge is about the size of a deck of cards.
On the other hand, the drive unit contains the read-write head-stack assembly, the cartridge-ejection mechanism and the drive electronics—much like Iomegas Jaz removable drive or most earlier removable formats, such as the floppy or Iomega Zip. Both RRD components (drive and cartridge) will use seals to protect components from environmental contamination, such as dust, the company said.
According to Product Manager Bob Lutz, the new cartridge design reduces cost and helps make it more robust. "Some companies take a standard hard disk drive, put an enclosure around it, and then stick it in a drawer so it slides in and out of your system. But you have the cost of all the components in every single removable piece. Weve isolated the platter and spindle motor and can offer [removability] at a significant savings."
While pricing for drives and cartridges will be announced closer to release time, the company said the expected cost will be about half that of a comparable tape solution. However, a figure provided to analysts pointed to a price of $9.66 per gigabyte, or $338.
In addition, RRD cartridges will stand up to mishandling (dropping) better than a standard portable hard drive, Lutz said. "The head-stack assembly is one of the weakest points of a standard 2.5-inch hard drive, and its the part most easily bent if you drop it off the desktop to the floor. Its the heads that get misaligned. In our case, the heads are located safely in the drive. You drop the [RRD] cartridge, and its made out of a very solid material."
The drives will come bundled with an updated version of Iomegas backup software: either Iomega Automatic Backup Pro, which supports data compression and image backup, or Iomega Automatic Backup Server.
This is the second announcement from Iomega of a new removable drive technology in the span of a month. In July, the company said it begun OEM sampling of its Digital Capture Technology (DCT) drive, a tiny cartridge about the size of a half-dollar coin. Iomega expects the drive will appeal to manufacturers of portable electronics as an alternative to current flash-based media or even DVD and CD technologies. (Read more about Iomegas DCT drive in this ExtremeTech story.)
At that time, Iomega reported that its second-quarter 2003 sales had dropped by 30 percent compared with the year-ago quarter. The company attributed the change to sagging sales of its Zip cartridges.