In March 2002 the iVDR, standing for information Versatile Disk for Removable usage, consortium was formed by Canon, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Phoenix Technologies, Pioneer, Sanyo, Sharp and JVC. It aimed to develop a removable hard drive specification applicable to both business and consumer use.
The founders wanted to develop an industry standard format covering audio-visual devices, PCs and servers.
The name iVDR has echoes of VCR and also DVD (digital versatile disk) and is not very catchy. The consortium set to work and developed three formats, recruited up to 35 members, as of this month, and exhibited at the 2003 CES exhibition. It put out a press release in July 2003 describing three iVDR formats, said it was developing a fourth but, since then, relative silence.
iVDR Parallel is an 80mm wide by 12.7mm thick by 130mm long case holding an ATA drive.
iVDR is a 2.5 inch specification, sharing the 80mm width and 12.7mm thickness but 110m long and having Serial ATA connectivity. It was described as as an 80GB capacity device in May last year. A 200-400GB capacity is hoped for in 2006. The consortium thinks that combining iVDR units to produce servers with terabyte capacities is feasible.
The iVDR mini is still 80mm wide but only 10mm thick and 67mm long. It is for 1.8 inch drives. The capacity was quoted as 20GB in May 2003 and could be expected to be 40GB or more in 2005.
A specification for an iVDR Micro using 1 inch drives is apparently been worked on. Hitachi currently has a 4GB microdrive.
The consortium sees the device being used for business as a backup medium and also as a distribution medium for videos and films.
In the backup area there are already removable disk-based products. CMS Products has its Serial ATA Velocity Series product offering 80-200GB capacity with an included backup software product. CMS states that 'users can backup 20GB of data in less than 20 minutes compared to more than 60 minutes with USB 2.0 or FireWire interfaces'. If the main drive fails the Velocity disk is also bootable.
Eric Robinson, VP of engineering, CMS Products. says, “The Velocity Series can be easily removed and stored, giving users flexibility to integrate multiple hard drives for a complete archiving solution.”
Iomega, an iVDR member, is working with partner BDT to bring out a 350GB capacity autoloader using its new 35GB Rev disks.
A slow-moving consortium can be left behind by more nimble members.
In the video and film distribution field the consortium wants to have copy protection included and is working to develop content protection schemes.
The music industry has taken three years or more before coming together to agree online music content protection schemes. The film industry with vast sums of revenue at risk can't be expected to take less time. It seems significant that the consortium did not appear at CES 2004.
Membership and non-membership
The membership includes Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, Maxtor and Seagate but not Western Digital. Still three out of the top four HDD manufacturers isn't bad. La Cie and Iomega are also present. However searches on the Maxtor, Seagate, Iomega and La Cie web sites reveal no mention of iVDR at all.
Joining a consortium doesn't necessarily imply the member will build an iVDR device.
A search on the web sites of Dell, HP, IBM and Microsoft reveals no mention of iVDR either. They are not listed as members of the consortium. We might think that without their membership the consortium's chance of getting an iVDR bay built into PCs and servers is less than that of finding WMD in Iraq.
At this stage of its life the iVDR consortium has little visibility, no active support from the main PC suppliers, or Microsoft, and a conspicuous lack of visibility on the web sites of non-Japanese disk suppliers.
Trying to develop a single removable disk format to bridge the business and audio-visual worlds could be a step too far. Certainly the lack of ostensible support from PC manufacturers and Microsoft suggests that the iVDR format has an uphill task ahead of it in the business world.