The customer needs assured supply and is not confident when only one vendor offers a particular technology.”

-Jack Trautman, General Manager, Computer Peripherals Division, HP.

Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Seagate,
under the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) technology initiative, are developing Ultrium tape format
as an alternative to Digital Linear Tape (DLT), which is a closed technology and
unchallenged, as of now. HP’s initiative is driven by its objective to become the largest
provider of data protection to medium-sized networks managed by small IT departments. Jack
Trautman, GM, Computer Peripherals Division, HP, was in the country recently to meet the
reseller community. In an interview here, Trautman shares the company’s strategy for the
Ultrium format and other storage devices as well as the roll-out plans. Excerpts:

What is the purpose behind the LTO
initiative of HP, IBM and Seagate?

Digital Linear Tape is a closed
technology, supplied by only one vendor. The performance is at price-premium. The customer
needs assured supply and is not confident when only one vendor offers a particular
technology. He needs performance and the absence of competition means absence of
standards. There is also a need for these tapes in automated environments like libraries.
Therefore, IBM, Seagate and HP came together since we have the expertise for developing a
standard format like LTO.

We plan to keep it open and already,
14 media manufacturing and automation supplier companies like Fujitsu, Fuji, Imation have
signed license agreements. HP will also roll-out products based on this format, as will
Seagate and IBM. Products can be expected from next year. In fact, Digital Data Storage
(DDS) has enjoyed a long life because of the presence of multiple suppliers.

What is the roadmap you have
envisaged and the investment you have planned for these products?

HP is planning a roadmap of four
generations of products. Each will have double the capacity of the previous version. It
will follow the DDS path-DDS1, 2-3 are currently available. DDS4 will be launched this
year, with 20 GB native and 40 GB capacity with compression. Ultrium will start with 100GB
and will have 4 generations. The investment is close to $150-200 million in developing
this formats. However, more important investment is in IPR and Trade Secrets, etc, since
the technology will be in the public domain.

What is the target market for these
products?

In India, the DDS/DAT technology is
dominant since it is targeted at the low-end. The high end is being serviced by DLTs. We
expect this to be dominated by Ultrium format devices in the future. Large enterprises
with high data volume will require Ultrium devices.

Since the DLTs already address this
market, what is the need for Ultrium format? Will enterprises shift to your new devices?

Yes, the DLTs do address this
market. But, we feel there is a gap, which is why we have invested so heavily in this
market.

In fact, initially we were
questioned about this. Now, nobody asks why Ultrium, but when. The presence of competition
makes the environment healthy and gives customers a choice. Of course, the DLT market will
be a barrier initially, but we are banking on price/performance differences to win over
clients. Basically, the Ultrium technology devices fill the gap between DDS and DLTs. Only
one product will take on DLTs directly-the Super DLT.

Does DDS end with DDS4 or do you
have a roadmap for that too?Will that not compete with Ultrium as the capacity keeps
doubling?

Right now, DDS4 is 40GB while
Ultrium is 100 GB. We are working on DDS5, which will narrow the gap between the two. The
next meeting on DDS technology will work on DDS6. However, the two will continue to
co-exist, complementing each other. We will keep upgrading the performance and lowering
the price. However, the markets they will address will be different. DDS will basically
come with PCs and workstations and address the lower end while Ultrium will look at the
higher end.

What is the potential for this
product in India?

The Asia Pacific region, and
especially India, is a high-growth area for us. There has been a large growth in servers,
and the attach rate is high for storage devices.

We will not only supply the devices,
but also provide total solutions and after-sales support. We have put in a network of
customer care centers as part of Commercial Channels Organization. The investments-close
to half a million dollar-has already been made and people are in place. Even in the past,
we have absorbed the import duty when it was high. When awareness about backup devices was
low, we adopted the OEM path to popularize it.

The latest value added software that
will come with these devices is One Button Disaster Recovery, which reduces the disaster
recovery process to literally that-one button.

How do you plan to take on
competition, considering there are 14 licensees, in addition to IBM and Seagate that are
developing products?

We will capitalize on our DDS
success. We are also working with libraries and may follow the OEM strategy here too. In
fact, we do not make just tapes. We have a research team that constantly comes up with
solutions that answer a lot of our customers’ needs. The OBDR feature, for instance, will
also be made available with the DDS drives. The new drives will come bundled with that
while the existing customers can soon download it from the net. We are also developing a
diagnostic tool for the user to diagnose an error.

Will the distribution channel be
different for this?

The mode of distribution will be the
same as that for DDS. The sales force will focus on each segment-the small, medium and the
large.

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