BY HEIDI BIGGAR
Although fellow consortium members Hewlett-Packard and Sony have shelved plans to manufacture future-generation Digital Data Storage (DDS) Digital Audio Tape (DAT) drives, Seagate says it is assessing the possibility of bringing a DDS-5 product to market. Seagate is expected to announce its plans as early as this month.
"We're currently investigating market opportunities for product enhancements," says Bob Hawkins, director of DDS/Travan product-line management at Seagate. While Seagate would not comment on the specifics of its plan, HP officials speculate that such a move would likely involve some sort of technology licensing agreement with either HP or Sony.
Currently in its fourth generation, DDS offers 20GB of native capacity and a 3MBps transfer rate. Proposed fifth-generation drives would double capacity and performance to 40GB and 6MBps.
HP has a working prototype of a fifth-generation drive, which the company says it could bring to market, but believes DLT1 is a more attractive option. "If we need to, we could bring DDS-5 to market, but Benchmark DLT1 currently fills the gap better," says Dave Robertson, product manager, Network Storage North America, at Hewlett-Packard.
DLT1 drives provide 40GB of native capacity and a 3MBps native transfer rate. Competitively priced at $1,499, they are backward read-compatible with Quantum's DLT 4000 format. Benchmark claims that 32% of its customers are former DDS users.
Sony, meanwhile, says it is migrating its DDS customers to its enhanced AIT-1 line, which it began shipping in January. These drives have a maximum 35GB capacity and 4MBps transfer rate and are priced at $1,395.
But don't look for DDS to disappear overnight. "DDS is one of the most popular drives on the market," says Bob Abraham of Ojai, CA-based Freeman Reports. "It has taken drive shipments 13 years to peak, and the decline will be slow."
"There are several years of product life in our DDS-2, -3, and -4 drives," says HP's Robertson, "and our DDS-3 and DDS-4 autoloaders have been good sellers."
Unit shipments of DDS drives are expected to decrease to fewer than 100,000 drives by 2006, down from 1.4 million in 2000, according to a preliminary projection of the soon-to-be-published (July) Freeman Reports. Revenue, meanwhile, is projected to drop from approximately $700 million to less than $50 million over the same period.