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  1. Technology
October 13, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

Hungary for publicity: Exabyte makes pitch for Euromarket with string of new products

On October 9, Boulder, Colorado-based Exabyte Corp announced in Europe three new products in its range of 8mm tape storage subsystems, as introduced recently in the US (CI No 1,771). To educate the European computer press on the value of such products, Exabyte last week flew journalists out to Budapest (no particular relevancy to the announcements) for the company’s first European press event. The EXB-10i Cartridge Handling Subsystem, currently in production shipment and costing from $15,000 to end users depending on the drive configuration and complexity of software added by Exabyte resellers, is a desktop data cartridge stacker which enables random as well as sequential access to between 25Gb and 250Gb, depending on its 8mm tape drive configuration. The 10i – the i standing for intelligent – consists of the same hardware as the existing EXB-10 model, but requires some host software to operate the new random access facility. It is targeted at local networks, workstations and mid-range computer systems, and its main application, according to the company, is in automating high-capacity unattended back-up and restore applications – the stacker offers 28 hours of unattended operation. The 10i will provide access to up to 250Gb, and data transfer rates of up to 2.5Mbps when configured with the new EXB-8500c subsystem, which adds data compression capabilities to Exabyte’s existing 8500 product, based on IBM’s Improved Data Recording Capability compression format at a ratio of five to one. The IDRC algorithm is contained in an Exabyte proprietary integrated circuit. In native – or uncompressed – mode, the 5.25 tape drive stores 5Gb, transfers data at 500Kbps and searches at up to 37.5Mbps. The EXB-8500c, again, is aimed at the workstation, local network and midrange systems supplier, intended for back-up, archiving, data interchange, software distribution and imaging. Software is required to invoke the compression, but Exabyte president Peter Behrendt claims his implementation of the compression facility is unique, since it incorporates a Compression Integrity Check compressed data is written to tape only after it has been decompressed again and compared successfully with the original data. Beta shipments of the EXB-8500c are scheduled for the fourth quarter, with volume shipments expected first quarter 1992. In quantities of 1,000, the new system will cost $2,700. The third new product is the EXB-8205, a half-high 5.25 tape drive, also with compression. In native mode, the product offers 2.5Gb storage and a sustained transfer rate of 263Kbps. Compressed, the system provides 12.5Gb and a 1.3Mbps transfer rate, with a five-to-one compression ratio. High-speed search speeds are claimed to exceed 60Mbps, with compression. The 8205, with its smaller form factor, is targeted at OEM customers wanting to build the drive into their ever-shrinking computer boxes. As with the new 8500c, in native mode, the drive is compatible with the existing 8200 and 8500, which will still be produced. Instead of six single-sided boards, the 8205 contains four two-sided boards. It includes an integrated SCSI controller and 1Mb speed-matching buffer. And the 8205 can be configured for synchronous or asynchronous transfer. Volume shipments are scheduled for third quarter 1992, with OEM quantity 1,000 price at $1,920.

Only Exabyte can out-store Exabyte

In the standard 5.25 form factor area, the only stor-age technology that can outstore Exabyte’s original 2.5Gb EXB-8200, the company claims, is Exabyte’s own EXB-8500, the new compression version of which has just been announced. The 4mm Digital Audio Tape, DAT, as endorsed by Hewlett-Packard Co, which is ploughing much energy into making the technology a hit, ironically also in collaboration with Sony Corp, is not per-ceived as a threat. But, of course, it would say that. The original EXB-8200, storing 2.5Gb with a transfer rate of 246Kbps, Exabyte points out, far out-shines the original DAT product, which sto

red 1.3Gb at 193Kbps. And the EXB-8500 is said to store almost three times more data than the largest native capacity DAT, boasting 500Kbps transfer. DAT, also based on helican scan technology, as is easily deduced, has a recording area a quarter the size of 8mm-width tape. And DAT currently comes in two incompatible formats – DDS and DataDAT. DAT is somewhat cheaper, Exabyte concedes, though 8mm’s higher-capacity results in lower per-Mb costs. There have been questions about the reliability of 8mm tape as a medium, but Exabyte claims that the introduction of automated jukeboxes solves that problem, by eliminating the need for humans to interfere with the tape. Exabyte’s Marty McCoy even goes so far as to suggest that DAT could be the best thing that’s ever happened to 8mm, since many of Exabyte’s potential competitors jumped on the DAT bandwaggon, instead of trying to get a cut of the 8mm market. But this move was based on the false assumption that DAT would take off in the consumer market. Optical disks, similarly, might have posed a serious threat, had they shipped on time, but even if it comes now, the technology is seen as a decade out of date.

No challenge on horizon for 8mm tape

Exabyte was born in 1985, supported by $7.5m venture capital, with the mission of producing high-capacity digital 8mm cartridge handling subsystems and media for unattended back-up for the mid-range and high-end computer system markets. It fervently believes that despite (potential) attacks from optical disk and digital audio tape – DAT – 8mm tape is the best storage medium that money can buy, and is here to stay for the foreseeable future – particularly in Europe, which Exabyte feels will be the largest source of business by the end of the decade. Exabyte is the only company doing 8mm – it considers its main rivals to be its own OEM customers, such as Archive Corp’s Maynard subsidiary, which re-badges Exabyte products. As to DAT, Ex-abyte maintains that the technology overlaps in the market with 8mm only by a fragment, since it addresses the lower end quarter-inch products, says vice-pres-ident of marketing Marty McCoy, are a much closer com-petitor to DAT. The EXB-8200 5.25 tape drive, targeted at multi-gigabyte unattended back-up applications, was Exabyte’s first product in 1987. As with all Exabyte products, the helical-scan 8mm tape is procured from Sony Corp, on an exclusive basis – it is the same stuff used in Sony Camcorders, and at the time of its arrival Exabyte’s 8200 could hold 2.5Gb on an 8mm cartridge smaller than a pack of playing cards. Exabyte claims that in 1987 this was 10 times the capacity offered by any existing storage technology. Today, Exabyte boasts an installed base of 250,000 units, its 200 customers including all the big names – IBM Corp, which uses Exabyte products with the RS/6000, the high-end PS/2, AS/400 and ES/9000; ICL Plc, for the DRS 6000 and DRS 3000; Fujitsu, a new recruit, Bull; Hewlett-Packard’s Apollo; 3Com Corp; Data General; Intel Corp; NCR Corp, the company’s first major OEM customer; NEC Corp; Norsk Data; Northern Telecom; NeXT Computer, which interestingly backs up its optical disks with 8mm; Sun Microsystems, Exabyte’s second largest procurer after IBM; Siemens and Olivetti. DEC is the one most obvious omission here, though 30% of Exabyte drives apparently reside on DEC kit. Strangely, DEC doesn’t buy directly from the Colorado manufacturer; instead the company buys the drives from one of Exabyte’s value-added resellers, Mountain Computer – it’s only parts that DEC chooses to buy direct, for maintenance purposes. McCoy says he has no idea why DEC does this, but he’s not too worried since DEC’s strange habits protect company margins. In 1990, Exa-byte, which now has 700 employees, turned over $170m, up from $89m the year before; this year, Wall Street analysts apparently expect something in the region of $220m. Some 41% of Exabyte’s revenues last year came from value-added resellers and system integrators; 39% from OEM business; and 20% from distributors. This year the company hopes to in

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crease the OEM contribution to 50%. Some 45% of Exabyte’s products filter through to Europe, though this is to a large degree via the company’s US OEM buyers. Over here, distributors represent the largest part of Exabyte’s business, accounting for 70%, while OEM customers take 25% and large resellers only 5%. In the UK, Exabyte distributes via Phase IV Systems Ltd, which has shipped 10,000 drives over the last four years. Sue Norris

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