LTO gaining ground in tape market

By Heidi Biggar

Despite continued adoption of storage area networks (SANs) and network-attached storage (NAS) last year, unit shipments of tape libraries increased just 3% to 65,400 units, according to the recently published Freeman Report, 2003 Tape Library Outlook.

The flat economy and increasing pressure from a variety of new disk-based backup alternatives combined to give library vendors a run for their money last year. "On the positive side, SAN adoption drove library sales, as did NAS," says Bob Abraham, author of the report. "On the negative side, the economy was still a factor."

While the economy impacted virtually all segments of the tape library market last year, some were affected more than others. In particular, newer technologies like LTO fared better than technologies such as DLT. "When the economy goes south, leading-edge technologies aren't affected as much as older technologies," says Abraham.

LTO libraries first entered the market in 2000. Last year, ADIC was the leading supplier of LTO libraries with a 26.1% market share, followed by StorageTek, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Quantum, according to the report.

Shipments of LTO libraries rose 95% from 2001 to 2002, increasing to 25,719 units, and shipments are expected to increase 10% this year. Propelled by these numbers, LTO became the volume library leader in 2002. According to the Freeman Report, LTO libraries accounted for 39.3% of all library shipments in 2002, compared to 38.6% for DLT/SDLT.

As for other library types, 8mm finished the year up 16%, based largely on the strength of Sony's AIT technology, says Abraham. Unit shipments of 8mm libraries are expected to grow at a 9% CAGR pace over the forecast period, to 18,900 units in 2008.

Abraham also expects Sony's SAIT libraries to make significant strides in certain market segments, particularly in the broadcast arena.

SAIT libraries, says Abraham, should stimulate the growth of the overall helical-scan library segment, which also includes Sony's DTF and Ampex's DST tape technologies. Shipments of these libraries are expected to increase from 360 units in 2002 to more than 1,500 units in 2008.

SAIT drives have already been integrated into libraries from Sony and Qualstar, and other vendors are expected to follow suit. "Any vendor with a half-inch product is looking to integrate the new drive," says Abraham, "but issues with the drive's form factor could be a problem for some library manufacturers."

Sony began shipping volume units of SAIT drives this spring. The drives come in a 5.25-inch form factor and are not backward compatible with AIT drives. They do, however, leverage many of the same technologies as AIT, and they have an industry-high 500GB capacity and a competitive 30MBps transfer rate.

Also on the horizon are SDLT 600, a 300GB/34MBps drive, and LTO-3, which could be demonstrated as early as the fourth quarter. The third-generation LTO drive will reportedly boast a 400GB native capacity and a 60MBps throughput rate.

This article was originally published on June 18, 2003