Thursday, March 26, 2009

ProStor, innovative disk based removable storage.

Recently I had the opportunity to corral the newly appointed CEO of ProStor Systems, Frank Harbist, to get an update on this evolving storage company that has successfully managed to stay under the radar of many storage industry watches, intentionally or otherwise.

ProStor Systems is in the business of removable disk storage, a technology with a heritage reaching back to the clunky IBM 1311 Disk Pack of the 1960’s, please excuse my grey hairs showing. However today’s instantiation of removable disk storage bearing no resemblance to its clunky ancestor but is an innovative cartridge based technology that enables some interesting archive alternatives for the SMB and the data intensive professional.

Labeled the RDX this removable technology is based on a ruggedized 2½" drive technology from either Seagate or Western Digital packaged in a family of cartridges that provide capacity options up to a maximum of 500GB of native storage, 1TB when compressed.
Pricing however is a challenge. The end user price for the 500GB cartridge is currently $1.6/GB but would suggest that they must get this price below $1, closer to $0.5 for native capacity, if the technology to gain mainstream adoption.

The RDX is not ProStors only product family; they are in fact a company with a tale of two products. The second product is called Infinivault, a NAS based archive solution built on their removable technology integrated with a compliant archive application. Three platforms make up the Infinivault family with online native capacities ranging from 1.5TB to 50TB, targeted at compliant digital imaging applications in specific vertical niches including healthcare. Of course with the media being removable maximum capacity is infinite.

Shipping for about six months, more systems have been shipped so far in 2009 than in all of 2008. Law of small number to be sure but the trajectory is encouraging.

The last I had heard about these folks was when they were in the midst of significant staff reductions and the popular sentiment was that they were soon to become a company to be described in the past tense. However with OEM deals with Dell, HP, IBM, Fujitsu and NEC producing current shipments of 120,000 decks and 400,000 cartridges it may be premature to spend too much time crafting their obituary.

ProStor and their private label partners are positioning RDX as a replacement for tape and optical. With LTO creating real estate challenges for today’s high performance servers and with Plasmons recent implosion resulting in a substantial population of frustrated optical (UDO) customers, the available market for a viable, removable storage technology looks vibrant.

Green storage technologies and Green IT are particular interests of mine and the green profile of removable media tags this technology as one that I should be watching.

Next month I expect to get a deeper product briefing from the ProStor team following which I will write a more detailed post. Stay tuned.