EMC Considers Tape Plans

Company might partner or resell tape libraries.

Despite its traditionally dismissive attitude about tape storage technology, EMC Corp. is bolstering its tape resale agreements and continues to be seen as a prized partner for tape library vendors.

The word this month from Dave Donatelli, EMCs executive vice president of storage platform operations, that the company is deciding whether to partner or to resell tape libraries took many in the industry by surprise.

In fact, EMCs flip-flop "could well be the first shoe to drop in a very proactive way to promote tape and bring in other software and hardware," said Freeman Reports analyst Bob Abraham, of Ojai, Calif. "They wished that [tape] would just go away, and it isnt."

EMC officials would not comment specifically about tape plans. EMC CEO and President Joe Tucci ruled out an acquisition but declined to say if there would be one partner or many. Candidates include Advanced Digital Information Corp., of Redmond, Wash., and Storage Technology (StorageTek) Corp., of Louisville, Colo., said industry observers. ADIC may have an edge because it does not make disk products that compete with EMCs, sources said.

EMCs current tape OEM supplier, Quantum Corp., meanwhile, is hoping to keep its exclusive arrangement despite word that EMC next year will phase out Quantums EMC Data Manager in favor of Networker from its pending acquisition of Legato Systems Inc., of Mountain View, Calif.

"Were in discussions with them about this. Wed like to continue to be their only partner for tape," said Scott Wright, Quantums OEM product manager, in San Jose, Calif. "EMC likes to position themselves because of where [Tucci] is coming from as favoring disk over tape for backup. We sometimes find it to be bizarre."

EMC launched its Centera disk-based archiving storage product in the spring of 2002; sold its tape virtualization software to a Framingham, Mass., startup, Diligent Technologies Corp., later last year; and shipped ATA drives for its Clariion midrange storage offering this year.

Guidant Corp., which manufactures medical equipment, employs EMCs flagship Symmetrix storage product, Network Appliance Inc.s network-attached storage and various server-based disks.

EMC merely offering libraries would not be enough to make Guidants IT department, based in St. Paul., Minn., switch from its Hewlett-Packard Co. and StorageTek libraries, said Tim Burebe, Unix systems administrator.

"Its a pretty major investment to just initially put in what we currently require for backup," Burebe said. "Thered have to be definitely a performance benefit; thered have to be a capacity benefit. Wed need to make sure the conversion process fits everything that we back up," which amounts to 2 terabytes a night through NetBackup, from Veritas Software Corp., also in Mountain View, he said.

Other industry efforts to keep tape technology relevant include research of double-sided tapes, tapes with embedded microchips and software, and thinner media for better capacity.