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Optical storage maker acquires NAS vendor

Plasmon hopes that networking its optical storage libraries with the acquisition of Raidtec will boost sales. How does it stack up against the alternatives?

UK-based optical storage manufacturer Plasmon, has agreed to acquire Raidtec Holdings Limited, a maker of NAS and RAID-based storage arrays, for £3.4 million ($6.08 million).

The deal follows two years of development between the companies on an optical appliance that is essentially a network attached UDO (ultra density optical) library with an integrated server and NAS operating system from Raidtec.

Until now users buying any kind of optical storage library have been forced to buy a server and software and set up the connection between the storage network and the optical library themselves.

GE's medical imaging business is the first customer of the new optical appliance and will start selling it to healthcare systems integrators within the next few months. The product will be generally available later this year, starting at $10,000.

Analysts say the acquisition is a wise move as its gives Plasmon a way to tie the growing disk-based storage networking market to its optical solutions. "Customers can buy their primary storage and archival solution from the same company…It makes it easier for people to use optical," says Peter Gerr, senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group.

"Plenty of people have being saying optical's dead but that's not true," Gerr adds. "Lots of financial companies trust it and are not throwing it out to jump to disk."

Furthermore, Plasmon's latest optical libraries use UDO (ultra density optical) disks which are a significant advancement over MO (magnetic optical) disks in price terms.

Traditionally, optical storage was only for seriously niche applications like science and research, but UDO costs one fifth the price of MO disks, making it a more viable option for more general applications, Plasmon executives say. UDO is priced at $60 list for a 30 GB cartridge. That works out to $2.00 per GB or 0.2 cents per MB. It's still more expensive than regular disk storage which costs around $1 per GB today.

However, in arrays designed for archiving, like EMC's Centera or Network Appliance's Nearstore, the range is about $10-$40/GB. The latest tape systems are about 15 cents/GB. In other words optical storage is still more than the cheapest SATA JBOD arrays and tape, but if users are looking for guaranteed WORM-ness and long-term readability with faster access than tape, it's in the ballpark. DuPont says "we are back on the cost curve at least."

It's worth noting that HP and IBM support UDO and are working on products that incorporate this technology. These companies are betting that optical storage will experience a revival as new compliance regulations kick in this year. Optical storage has traditionally been the technology of choice for meeting the most stringent regulatory and business requirements for securing sensitive data, for the companies that could afford it. Now it seems it could be a more realistic option for a wider audience.


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