Dell has expanded into removable disk backup.

The arch proponent of device commoditisation has announced the PowerVault RD1000, a removable disk-based device for backup and restore. Dell says it combines "the speed of a hard disk with the portability of tape".

The product is based on the Prostor RDX drive with a 2.5in form factor. It comes as a catridge which is inserted into a docking unit. This is either a USB-connect external unit or a SATA-connected internal unit in a 3.5in drive bay. The RDX cartridge is pretty robust, surviving a one metre drop onto concrete, and weighs about the same as a mobile phone.

Stephen Watson, HP UK StorageWorks Division product marketing manager, was unfazed by Dell's anouncement: "HP has already been doing disk-to-disk back-up for sometime, and it is a technology we already use. However, we also appreciate the value of being able to add tape back-up to anybody's system. The value in this is the ability to first of all reduce cost. For example, DAT is the most popular back-up media in the world and also has the lowest cost of ownership of any back up medium."

He also said: "HP has seen an increase in the take-up of tape, particularly around the Ultrium LTO technology HP has worked hard to develop."

Tandberg, another LTO tape-shipping vendor, was the first to offer an RDX-based product with its QuikStor line. Compared to tape the PowerVault RD1000 is faster, longer-lived and less prone to failure. For example:

  • Travan or DAT-72 tape cartridges can be used 50 to 100 times before they have to be replaced. An RDX cartridge can used 5,000 times before it needs replacing, fifty times better.
  • The RDX drive has a mean time between failure (MTBF) figure that's ten times better than DAT-72's 50,000 hours.
  • Travan's data transfer rate is a tenth of RDX'. DAT-72 is 7.5 times slower than RDX.
  • RDX backs up 80GB in less than 60 minutes. DLT 4 takes more than twice this whilst Travan will take over 7 hours.

Past on past experience, it is all too likely that Dell will blast a hole in the tape backup dam and through it will pour a wave of other suppliers offering disk-based backup for small and medium enterprises and departments of larger businesses. The days of tape as a low-end backup medium look numbered.