Quantum: Losing a Step

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2004-01-16 Print this article Print

Quantum is pushing bigger, faster drives in the hope of reinvigorating its library business. But will customers buy into that strategy?

Better known for tape drive technologies than libraries, Quantum has been eliciting fewer warm fuzzies lately. Financially, its earnings have been hurt by falling tape media prices, forcing the company to restructure and put a greater focus on its drive business.

As for its technology, the experience of USinternet- working, which bought two Quantum P3000 libraries in 1999 and 2000, is instructive. When the service provider subsequently needed to upgrade its tape infrastructure, it opted for a high-scale StorageTek PowderHorn 9310 rather than a Quantum product. "Quantum didn't have anything nearly as large," says Doug Humphries, principal engineer for backup at USi. (It still doesn't.)

Another difference: After struggling to get Quantum's SCSI- to-Fibre-Channel bridge to work, Humphries found a superior alternative in StorageTek's 9940 drives, which have native Fibre Channel interfaces. "To me, it seems that StorageTek has more enterprise-class technology than Quantum," he says.

On the drive side, Quantum has faltered as well, as its SDLT technology has trailed the capacities and speeds offered by Linear Tape Open (LTO) technology. Quantum's drives are now in the same ballpark as the current generation of LTO with the recently introduced SDLT 600, which offers 300 gigabytes per tape and up to 36 megabytes per second of data transfer.

Clearly, Quantum has lost some cachet. But the company still has high name recognition in the drive category. "Quantum seems like the standard," says Maury Myar, CTO of investment firm Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn. "They are the brand name in tape."

Part of Quantum's strategy, then, is to push its bigger, faster SDLT drives in the hopes of reinvigorating its library business. For example, Primary Color's Corey Van Allen was bumping into the maximum capacity of the printing company's four Quantum P3000 libraries, which were configured with 16 older DLT 7000 drives. Rather than buy new libraries, he put in eight SDLT 320 drives, which can hold 4.6 times more data than the 7000s. "I'm reclaiming about five tapes for every one SDLT 320 tape we're putting in," he says.

1650 Technology Drive, San Jose, CA 95110
(408) 944-4000 / www.quantum.com

Ticker: DSS
Exchange: NYSE
Employees: 1,900

Rick Beluzzo
Chairman, CEO
The ex-Microsoft COO, who joined in 2002, is aiming to return Quantum to profitability. His cost-cutting steps have included merging tape and storage systems groups in November 2003.

John B. Gannon
President, COO
Assumed responsibility of day-to-day operations in November after serving as president of the DLTtape Group.

George Kreigler
General Manager, Storage Systems
Oversees autoloader and tape library product lines. Previously was general manager of the DLTtape Group.

Midrange M-Series libraries provide between 25 and 100 cartridges. The higher-end PX-Series includes the 732-slot PX720 (code-named Mako). Drive and media products are split between Digital Linear Tape (DLT), which Quantum has positioned as its "value" line, and the higher-performance and larger- capacity Super DLT (SDLT) for enterprise backup systems.

Reference Checks

Primary Color
Corey Van Allen
Director of I.T.
(949) 660-7080
Project: Commercial printer runs four P3000 libraries with 326 tape slots in each unit, handling a total of 60 terabytes at its Irvine, Calif., and Los Angeles locations.

Doug Humphries
Principal Engineer, Enterprise Backup
(410) 897-4400
Project: Application service provider uses two P3000s and one P7100 with DLT 7000 drives to back up Microsoft Exchange and specialized clients.

Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn
Maury Myar
CTO, Principal
(212) 838-3830
Project: Specialty investment firm in New York upgraded its two Quantum SuperLoaders with SDLT 320 drives, which back up 90 gigabytes of e-mail and other data every day.

Basics Office Products
Shawn Bertin
Senior Technical Analyst
Project: Canadian office supplies network installed a 16-slot SuperLoader with one SDLT 320 drive, replacing its obsolete Hewlett-Packard Surestore 1/9 autoloader. That reduced the time required for a full backup of Basics' data from 96 hours to 12.

Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin
Matt Reynolds
Director of I.T.
Project: Law firm uses four SDLT 320 drives in its two HP autoloaders to back up e-mail and legal documents.

Green Mountain Coffee
Jim Prevo
Project: Coffee purveyor backs up data to two SDLT 320 drives nightly.

Executives listed here are all users of Quantum's products. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.


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