Software and hard disks are the future of storage - and while tape's certainly not dead, it is the open LTO standard that is the future there, not Quantum's DLT. That's according to Rick Belluzzo, the CEO of Quantum, interviewed at the CeBIT trade fair.

Quantum is now consolidating and growing its software portfolio to include technologies such as continuous data replication and wide-area data services (WDS), which make it easier to protect data stored at remote and branch offices, he said.

He added that, following last year's acquisition of rival storage company ADIC, Quantum is now expanding its range of disk-based storage to include ADIC's data de-duplication technology, which can massively reduce stored data volumes.

"I started the discussion with ADIC on my way to CeBIT last year, at the airport, and we came together at the end of August," he said. "Increasingly the cost of storage is all about software - de-duplication, file management and so on - we brought those capabilities from both companies."

WAN optimisation

De-duplication has similarities with some of the WAN optimisation and compression schemes, and Belluzzo acknowledged that it will play an important role in Quantum's offerings for the RoBo (remote office, branch office) market, but claimed he did not intend to compete head-on with the likes of Riverbed, Juniper and Expand.

"We deliver remote storage solutions, I wouldn't call it WAFS," he said. "We work to move data to the centre and protect it. There is a lot of work to do on how to secure and manage data. We solve the WAN bandwidth problem in different ways, for example using de-duplication. It is very non-disruptive.

"Our software stack is going to expand, I can't say where yet. We will build a common software stack and have a name for it. We started with VTL (virtual tape libraries), we were a pioneer there, but increasingly that's becoming a feature rather than a product."

He added, "The direction we're pursuing, with the focus on backup and recovery, resonates with our users. For me, it's all about software - a lot of the future is about software. Even in tape libraries, one of the features we deliver is security, and a lot of that value-add is software."

DLT – the end in sight?

However, Belluzzo said that Quantum's DLT tape format – which comprises DLT-S as the successor to SuperDLT or SDLT, and DLT-V as the successor to the Benchmark-derived two-generations-back-but-cheaper 'value line' - could have as little as two years of life left in it, before it "slides out of the way" to be supplanted by the open LTO standard.

"We are rolling out DLT-S4 now - it offers very good performance," he said. "The next thing will be LTO-4 around the middle of this year, with new features such as encryption. After that the road-maps will kind of converge."

That means DLT-S4 could be the last generation of this venerable technology, which traces back to the Digital Linear Tape drives developed by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1984.

"We're not committing to DLT-S5 yet," Belluzzo said. "There has been massive consolidation onto LTO, with a broad range of products available." He said that even if S5 does appear, it won't be for another two years or so.

Tape rolls on

And he stressed that tape is not being abandoned, pointing out that it is still very advanced technology and claiming that it remains the best option for several applications. Plus of course Quantum will now focus on LTO instead, having acquired the rights to make LTO drives when it bought Certance in 2004.

"We want people to see we are continuing to make tape better, and as the leader in tape systems we will try to make it more flexible," he said. "Storage is being centralised so there's fewer tape systems, but they're larger. The low end is in decline.

"Not many people have the skills to do tape drives - it is very challenging technology. We are working very aggressively on tape - we have done very well in keeping up with the industry's requirements. The price-performance advantage continues to be strong, and it is still important for cost, security and energy efficiency – tape takes less power than disk."

But disk plays a much bigger part of Quantum's future plans – in particular its DX and DXi disk-based backup ranges.

Disk spins up

"We are increasing our investment in disk technology aggressively," Belluzzo said. "We have introduced a very innovative architecture that lets you do disk-based backup at a much lower price point.

"The DXi goes from 250GB for the remote office to 11TB, and there is a pull from customers towards a healthy market beyond that. But I have visited customers that have multiple data protection practices, and 11TB is big enough for those."

He added that while the DX – which scales to over 100TB – currently lacks de-duplication capabilities, enterprise de-duplication is on the road-map.

De-duplication software could even help enterprises reduce their energy bills, he claimed, because in reducing storage volumes by as much as 50:1 (in extreme cases), it makes disk-based secondary storage much more efficient. And all in all, whether it is tape, disk or both working together, he added that Quantum is well placed to solve some potentially very profitable enterprise problems.

"We see secondary storage demands and the needs of compliance as the most significant challenge customers face," he concluded. "That's the problem we want to solve."