Plasmon Falls Into Administration - Is Enterprise Optical Storage Dead? - InformationWeek

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10/12/2008
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Howard Marks
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Plasmon Falls Into Administration - Is Enterprise Optical Storage Dead?

Not so many years ago, optical storage looked like the future. While hard drives held 200MB, magneto-optical disks stored 650 MB and that could be WORM (Write Once Read Many), making optical jukeboxes the only storage medium that could meet the not deletable, not modifiable requirements of the regulations Wall Street broker dealers and other assorted deep-pocket customers had to comply with. Now it looks like optical disks may join head-per-track disks on the scrapheap of storage.

Not so many years ago, optical storage looked like the future. While hard drives held 200MB, magneto-optical disks stored 650 MB and that could be WORM (Write Once Read Many), making optical jukeboxes the only storage medium that could meet the not deletable, not modifiable requirements of the regulations Wall Street broker dealers and other assorted deep-pocket customers had to comply with. Now it looks like optical disks may join head-per-track disks on the scrapheap of storage.Fast forward 20 years, and hard drive and tape cartridge capacities have reached 1 TB and more. The regulatory agencies have approved, at least tacitly, software-based WORM technology in archiving solutions like EMC's Centera and Nexsan's Assurion and in the firmware of tape drives, including the market leading LTO. Now Plasmon -- the maker of UDO, the last commercial-strength optical disk and drive system -- is in administration, which is the slightly more draconian English version of chapter 11, and rumors are flying around the Net about its, and UDO's, future.

Plasmon's UDO-2 optical disks hold just 60 GB but include the cartridge protection required for long-term data retention in jukebox environments. While Blu-ray BD-R and BD-RE disks can hold up to 50 GB, past experience with CD and DVD jukeboxes hasn't been good, with contamination and wear resulting in premature media death.

While a couple of investors have expressed interest in picking Plasmon's bones, the only details now available are in a letter from CEO Steven Murphy, which states:

"This week, Plasmon Inc. and its UK Administrators continued to engage with interested strategic and financial sponsors to acquire the business. The company is now reviewing a new offer from a US-based private equity firm. This activity was publicly announced and supported today in the UK by the UK administrators"

The whole letter is available here.

So does the world need UDO, or some other optical disk? InPhase's holographic disk may be a contender, but it's stuck in its umpteenth delay.

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