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Quantum unveils tape storage product

The data-storage company unwraps a new tape library system dubbed "Mako," with hopes that the product will take a bite out of rival Storage Technology.

Data-storage company Quantum unveiled Monday an automated storage tape system dubbed "Mako," with hopes that the product will take a bite out of rival Storage Technology.

The new Mako PX720 is what's known in the industry as a tape "library," a refrigerator-size box that contains a number of tape drives, slots for hundreds of tape cartridges and a robotic system for moving the cartridges around. The Mako unit holds up to 20 drives and 732 slots, and boasts a total capacity of up to 146.4 terabytes, according to Quantum. A terabyte is approximately 1 trillion bytes.

A chief selling point of Mako is the unit's modular design, said Michael Hardy, vice president for strategic alliances at Quantum. Customers can buy additional drives in packs of four, with each pack containing its own power supply and cooling units. That means the basic Mako frame can be built less expensively, Hardy said. "If you buy a half Mako, you pay half price," he said.

Quantum also said it is possible to link up to five Mako frames together and centrally manage them, allowing for a tape system with as many as 100 drives, 3,660 slots and a total capacity of 732 terabytes.

Tapes are often used as the media for archiving organizations' data, and library devices can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Quantum makes a range of automated tape systems, with products tailored for corporate workgroups, departments and data centers. The Mako is designed to be the company's highest-end product used in data centers. Quantum has a few direct accounts with customers but focuses on getting its products to market through resellers. Companies such as EMC, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems sell gear made by Quantum.

Quantum has struggled recently. The company posted a net loss of $263 million for its fiscal year ended March 31.

Mako, though, could help right the company, suggested Peter Gerr, an analyst with research company Enterprise Storage Group. Gerr said the library device stands out for being able to squeeze a great deal of data capacity into a relatively small frame. What's more, the ability to expand the library's capacity dramatically should help Quantum appeal to Fortune 500 clients, he suggested.

"The Mako, I think, is going to shake up their competition," Gerr said.

Quantum competes against IBM, Advanced Digital Information and StorageTek, Gerr said. Quantum isn't shy about saying that it's gunning for StorageTek with the Mako. Quantum says the suggested price for buying and installing an 8-drive Mako with 718 slots and features such as redundant fans and power is $223,050, more than $20,000 cheaper than a similarly configured StorageTek product.

StorageTek disputed Quantum's price comparison, saying the kind of tape drives used can affect pricing. "At this (midrange) end of the tape library market space, true apples-to-apples comparisons are difficult to come by," the company said in a statement.