Against a backdrop of falling tape sales, Tandberg Data has recently been throwing increasing amounts of resource into developing its disk-based storage portfolio.
One of the major beneficiaries of this change of focus has been the vendor’s range of removable disk storage (RDX) products, sales of which now account for more than 30 per cent of the company’s total revenue.
Marije Gould, vice president of worldwide marketing at Tandberg Data, explained: “RDX technology offers the best that tape and disk have to offer, and it has been rapidly adopted by SMBs, mid-sized enterprises, and by systems integrators during server builds.”
Buying the rights
Tandberg had previously been licensing the RDX technology from fellow storage vendor ProStor Systems since 2006. Last month, however, it was announced that Tandberg had agreed to acquire all the intellectual property (IP) rights for RDX from its long-term ally.
Gould said that, given the contribution RDX makes to the company’s annual turnover, the acquisition was an important part of securing the company’s future growth.
“There is still demand for tape, and there is also strong growth in the disk market, but we are an ambitious company and we did not want to settle for a two to three per cent annual growth rate,” she explained.
“We are always looking for opportunities to grow.” For Tandberg’s partners, owning the IP for RDX means the vendor can be more responsive to their feedback when it comes to future product development, said Gould.
“When we licensed the technology from ProStor, we did our own research and development on the products, but had to stay within strict parameters of what we could do with it,” she added. “Since then, RDX has become a key part of our product portfolio, and it became increasingly important for us to take charge of the road map for ourselves, as well as for our customers and partners.”
Joe Fagan, product marketing manager at Tandberg distributor CMS Peripherals, added that partners would welcome having more input into the company’s future product development.
“Having control of the development will give Tandberg an advantage,” he explained. “That being said, before the acquisition was announced, they had announced some good enhancements, such as the inclusion of SSD and the addition of the USB 3.0.”
Even so, Fagan believes that the vendor should seize on its new power to push into some previously untapped markets. “There may well be a market for fast and versatile removable storage in the consumer or the small office/ home office market,” he explained. “So perhaps retail packaging for their products might become one area that would be a useful addition.”
Clive Longbottom, service director at analyst Quocirca, said the deal would help reduce the vendor’s overall reliance on tape sales.
“This all certainly makes sense for Tandberg, because it needs to broaden its portfolio under its own control and disk-based backup is a nice match to its tape-based systems,” he said. “There was also a risk that ProStor could end up not being viable [from a road map perspective], which would threaten Tandberg’s RDX business, and they have taken steps to prevent that.”
Through the acquisition, Tandberg also obtained the licensing rights for RDX, meaning that all ProStor’s incumbent OEM agreements for the technology now fall under the vendor’s control.
Gould said that Tandberg is firmly committed to maintaining the vendor partnerships that ProStor had in place with the likes of Dell, HP, Quantum, Lenovo and Imation. The company has also not ruled out the possibility of adding a few new licensees to the mix.
“These relationships are one of the reasons why RDX has become so widely accepted in the marketplace, so we will definitely keep them going,” she explained. “This also gives us an opportunity to partner with new licensees who can help push the technology into new verticals, such as healthcare.”
However, Quocirca’s Longbottom said that Tandberg could encounter some problems when it comes to maintaining licensing relations with Dell and HP.
“The other RDX vendors may stay on board, as Tandberg does not overly compete with the rest of their lines,” he explained. “The situation is less clear with Dell because it has Compellent and EqualLogic, and it could do a direct disk-to-disk solution that negates the need for removable disk or tape. HP also seems quite intent on having as much direct control over its products as possible.”
In order to attract other OEMs, Tandberg will also need to have a compelling business case if it is to convince new vendors that RDX is a technology worth investing in, warns Longbottom.
“The likes of NetApp and EMC do not see tape as part of the long-term evolution of their backup strategy and a removable disk-based version is probably unlikely to excite them either,” he said.
Glenn Jones, sales director of Tandberg VAR Craystone, said that he would prefer to see Tandberg maintaining OEM ties with just a select few partners. “If I were the guy pushing the buttons at Tandberg, I would be a lot more selfish,” explained Jones.
“The only alliances I would bother with would be Dell and IBM, in order to make the most of their reputations to spread the word about RDX.”
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