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Exabyte scores win for its VXA-2 tape with IBM deal

IBM has chosen Exabyte's VXA-2 tape drives for use in the IBM eServer pSeries family of servers and workstations.

After one year of financial distress, two generations of its tape technology and three CEOs, tape drive maker Exabyte Corp. has had a change of fortune and signed an OEM agreement that puts the company back on the tape drive map.

Exabyte, which is based in Boulder, Colo., announced that IBM Corp. has put Exabyte's VXA-2 tape drives on its shopping list for inclusion with the IBM eServer pSeries family of servers and workstations.

The VXA-2 tape drive has been designed to deliver a native capacity of up to 80G bytes at a sustained transfer rate of up to 12M byte/sec, while maintaining read and write compatibility with the first generation VXA-1 tape drive.

Robert Amatruda, a senior analyst at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass., said that Exabyte had been in need of a "first-tier" OEM relationship for its VXA tape technology.

"It helps validate the technology and will give Exabyte business. IBM, I would believe, likes VXA-2's value-proposition," he said.

The VXA-2 tape drive is now available from IBM as an internal feature of the current IBM eServer pSeries family of workstations and servers and as the 7206 Model VX2, or as an externally attached storage enclosure.

The VXA-2 drive's SCSI Ultra 2 low-voltage differential (LVD) interface attaches to either LVD or single-ended SCSI host interfaces. In addition, three lengths of VXA tape cartridges and a cleaning cartridge are also available.

IBM pSeries customers can select a cartridge capacity of 20G bytes to 80G bytes.

Exabyte has positioned its VXA drives, which it acquired after merging with fellow tape maker Ecrix Corp., as a replacement for drives based on the popular DDS tape technology. The company maintains that VXA offers a higher capacity and performance at the same price point as DDS.

VXA technology uses data packets and a complex tracking and error correction system to transfer data.

Exabyte's new president and CEO, Tom Ward, has completed the task of turning the company back toward profitability, a job started by interim CEO Juan Rodriguez after he took the reigns from Bill Marriner in 2001.

While at his post as interim president and CEO in January, Rodriguez restructured the company's expenses to reduce $14 million in annual costs, developed a relationship with Hitachi for outsourcing manufacturing needs, and strengthened the balance sheet by raising $6.56 million in equity financing and securing $25 million in working capital.

Bob Abraham, a storage analyst and president of Ojai, Calif.-based Freeman Reports, said Exabyte seems to have turned a corner and left its management and financial troubles behind.

He added that the company's restructuring efforts are complete and that Exabyte can build its business back up based on its VXA and Mammoth tape technologies, both of which are strong contenders in the 8-mm tape market.

Exabyte merged with Ecrix in August 2001. The deal gave the start-up Ecrix access to a worldwide sales and support organization for its entry-level VXA tape technology and gave Exabyte a viable low-end tape technology.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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