Bob Schaefer was appointed Breece Hill's CEO on June 6th. He's a Breece Hill veteran having joined the company at its inception in 1993. Along the way he helped shape the company's future with the iStoRA integrated disk and tape device (disk to disk to tape or D2D2T) for backup, recovery and archive. Breece Hill is focussed on building backup, recovery and archive products for small and medium business and workgroups.

It is in this market that disk backup is prospering, helped by its speed and convenience. Breece Hill has embraced this trend with the iStoRA appliance.

Techworld talked with Bob Schaefer about disk and tape backup and tape formats. He described Breece Hill thus: "Our product is the iStoRA and it has five things inside it: a tape autoloader, disks, integrated power supplies, a server-class motherboard in it and it's got software in it."

"So in this 4U-high package that sits in a rack I can have, say, 3TB of disk, 5TB of tape and all the things needed inside it to just deploy it into an environment and within thirty minutes be off and running. It's all together and it's all integrated. The operating system is already loaded. The security patches are already installed. That's what we're trying to provide, a core component that's very well qualified and very well tested."

The operating system? Schaefer says: "We live in the Linux and Microsoft world. So our customers have the option of receiving our product with Windows 2003 Server or SuSE Linux or Red Hat Linux."

What's in the disk side of the product? "What we've got is an eight serial ATA disk RAID subsystem ... with 400GB drives. The RAID system has the capability to run RAID 5 plus one distributed spare. There's a number of utilities built into the box that do the e-mail on problems kind of stuff."

And tape? "The box ... has ten tape cartridges in it with a single cartridge import/export slot and a single full height tape drive. We ship the iStoRA with LTO dominantly. We currently ship with LTO3 and we use H-P drives. We do still have LTO2 product and we're looking at half height drives and what they mean in the machine. We're listening to our customers and their needs ... so we can understand the environment in which half height drives would play in. If you have two of them in there is there an advantage to it or not?"

Breece Hill builds the raw box as it were. Then resellers add in backup and perhaps other software to provide a finished product that customers can use. Thus Breece Hill doesn't ship the disk part as a virtual tape library. That would be the function of third party software. Schaefer says: "We do not provide VTL functionality. But we do partner with people. We partner with a company that works with FalconStor and ... we have VTL functionality exposed through that relationship."

Breece Hill is a component vendor. Its product needs to be configured with software by third parties. That means its vision of product development is driven by what its third parties, its resellers, need. Where a company like Overland or ADIC, supplying product to OEMs, but also selling its own branded product then it is focussed more on what the end-customer wants. It sees more of the value chain more directly than Breece Hill. ADIC will supply software making its PathLight VX D2D2T product hardware work in a particular way. Breece Hill does not do this level of software integration and has a more limited view of its product's capabilities because of that.

IS this an old model for delivering IT products to customers? Yes in the sense that it has been around for a while. No in the sense that bit is probably the most successful way yet devised of delivering products tailored to the requirements both of selling to organisations with smaller budgets: some enterprise departments; enterprise subsidiaries; small and medium enterprises; and departments or businesses with unique needs such as video clip archiving.

A Breece Hill will succeed here where a much larger company selling the same kind of product won't.