Quantum claims it has 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 nonstandard and nonreusable 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 adds 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 recognize this and refuse to overwrite the tape. Berens admits that older non-DLTice drives could potentially overwrite WORM media, but says that if this happens the changes will immediately be visible because the cartridge's unique signature code will 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 says. "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 own DLTsage tape maintenance software or via archiving software. Berens says that 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 says. "It's cheaper and five to six times faster than most optical systems, and it doesn't require different technology."
Berens says that SDLT cartridges will in future come with both standard and WORM labels so the two formats can 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," says 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."
He adds though that archiving is a fairly low portion of the tape business, with its VolSafe WORM media representing "probably less than 10 percent" of StorageTek's 9840 and 9940 media sales.
"DLTice isn't a threat," he says. "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's other reasons to buy the 9840 besides that."