By Dave Simpson
—It's no secret that LTO tape drives/libraries are dominating the tape market. In fact, in terms of unit shipments, LTO-based tape libraries accounted for about 84% of total shipments last year, and they're expected to account for more than 88% of shipments this year, according to the Freeman Reports tape market research firm (see "Focus on: Midrange tape trends").
But what is surprising is the surge in end-user interest in half-high LTO drives (and libraries based on those drives), which were originally expected to be a niche market. For example, Freeman Reports predicts a compound annual growth rate of 28% for half-high LTO drive revenues over the next five years. That makes it the fastest-growing segment of the overall tape industry.
Shipments of half-high LTO tape drives nearly doubled last year (to more than 115,000 units) and represented 25% of all LTO drive shipments, according to Freeman Reports.
The market research firm estimates that unit shipments of combined full-high and half-high LTO drives were up by 30% last year and that the half-high segment grew at more than 3x that rate. In the same period, revenue growth for half-high LTO drives was up 46%, far surpassing the 16% revenue growth rate for the combined LTO drive market, according to Freeman Reports' recently released Half-High LTO Drive report.
All four of the LTO drive manufacturers—Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Quantum, and Tandberg—are expected to be shipping half-high LTO-3 drives within the next quarter or two. (HP led the market for half-high units last year with a 77% market share.)
The most recent product with half-high LTO drives is Spectra Logic's T24 LTO-3 tape library, which stores up to 19TB (with compression) in a 2U form factor, and can be configured with one or two half-high LTO-3 tape drives and 12 to 24 tape cartridge slots. With compression, the drives can transfer data at up to 240MBps. The T24 is available through distributor CDW at an entry-level (single-drive) price of $4,385.
For more information on trends in the tape market, see "Tape advances in capacities, transfer rates."