Iomega launches hard-disk autoloader

StorageExpo: Iomega has taken its hard-disk cartridge technology and stuck it in an autoloader. The company also claims to have learnt valuable lessons from its Zip and Jaz drives

Iomega on Wednesday launched an autoloading version of its REV backup kit that uses hard-disk cartridges in place of tape.

The REV Autoloader 1000 is a desktop PC-sized box that contains up to ten hard disk cartridges, each able to store 35GB of uncompressed data. Iomega is positioning the REV Autoloader 1000 as low-cost alternative to tape backup for medium-sized companies who want to introduce some level of automation into their backup procedures. The company is bundling CA’s BrightStor ARCServe backup software with it to help that automation process.

At £1490 for the autoloader hardware, software and one cartridge, plus an estimate £35 to £40 per additional cartridge, the REV 1000 is, says Iomega, significantly cheaper than a tape-based solution. Iomega’s director of professional storage solutions, Wayne Arvidson, said the big advantage over tape is the random-access nature of the media, plus the ability of the drive to switch cartridges in under four seconds (or up to 25 seconds if the required cartridge is at the furthest point of the carousel).

Asked why one wouldn’t be better off just buying a single, large external hard disk, or backing up to optical media (which would be cheaper still) Arvidson, said that buyers of the REV Autoloader 1000 would be those looking for an automated backup solution. Plus, he added, "For a desktop user you have a lot more flexibility with this than you do with a single 200GB drive. I can add as many cartridges as I like, and store them offsite. Also, we see people buying these who were very heavy optical users before."

Arvidson said Iomega has learnt some valuable lessons from its experience with Zip and Jaz drives, which also used cartridges. "Zip was totally proprietary technology, so we had to engineer the heads ourselves. With REV we use standard 2.5inch hard disk technology as far as platters and heads go, and have taken our expertise in removable cartridges and applied it to that."

Use of standard technology means, said Arvidson, that as data density on platters increases, Iomega will be able to increase the capacity of the cartridges. As it does this, he said, the REV technology will retain backwards compatibility – unlike Jaz and Zip technology. Arvidson suggested that 100GB cartridges could be available in early 2006.

The unit has an Ultra-3 Wide SCSI interface, though Arvidson said a network-attached appliance is not out of the question.