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Iomega previews storage technology

The storage hardware maker sends out working prototypes of its new 35GB removable rigid disk technology to manufacturing partners.

Storage hardware maker Iomega has sent working prototypes of its new 35GB removable rigid disk (RRD) technology to manufacturing partners, the company said Tuesday.

Iomega, best known for its Zip drives, is betting its future on RRD, a large-capacity removable disk format that could potentially replace tape drives for backing up business data. Company executives said the emerging format should be capable of maintaining a memory capacity of 35GB, or 70GB compressed, per cartridge.

According to Iomega, the RRD technology is being evaluated by eight of its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners. The company expects that server and desktop products that incorporate the disk drive could become available in early 2004.

Iomega executives maintain that the benefits of RRD include increased hard drive performance and data integrity at a lower cost than existing storage technologies. The storage hardware maker is first aiming the technology at small and medium-size businesses with the idea that RRD could offer performance comparable to high-end systems at a cheaper buy-in price. According to Iomega, perhaps the greatest potential for RRD drives is their substantial storage expandability.

"RRD-based products are being designed to solve many of the problems encountered with tape solutions, making RRD a very viable alternative or replacement solution where tape is being used today," Werner Heid, CEO of Iomega, said in a statement.

Reportedly smaller than a deck of playing cards, the RRD system is designed to work with widely distributed backup and disaster recovery software and to appear on a host computer as a regular disk drive would. The company said customers would also be able to use RRD as an emergency boot-and-restore disk or to store both an operating system and data on the same disk to create a boot-and-run computing environment.

Among the companies helping Iomega produce RRD are ExcelStor, TDK and Texas Instruments.

Last month, Iomega announced plans to lay off 200 employees, almost a quarter of its work force, after reporting a 30 percent decline in quarterly sales, due mainly to lowered demand for its Zip drives and media.