Tape market update: LTO the only bright spot

By Dave Simpson

—Tape market research firm Freeman Reports released its Tape Library Outlook 2007 report this week, and in terms of tape formats LTO is the only growth market.

For the first time, overall revenues and unit shipments of tape libraries declined in 2006. Total revenue was down 15.6% (to $1.81 billion) relative to 2005, and unit shipments declined 4.5% (to 57,700 units). Freeman Reports expects total revenue to continue to decline this year, to $1.77 billion.

However, that doesn't mean that users are buying less tape capacity. In fact, Freeman Reports' president Bob Abraham notes that users purchased more than 50% more tape capacity in 2006 vs. 2005. The decline in revenues and unit shipments is in part due to the migration to lower-cost, higher-capacity libraries.

Freeman Reports expects tape library revenues to continue to decline this year, although at a slower pace. The research firm predicts revenues will decrease from $1.81 billion in 2006 to $1.77 billion this year (although the firm predicts a rebound to $2.15 billion in 2012, representing a compound annual growth rate of 2.9%). Meanwhile, overall unit shipments are expected to increase this year, from 57,668 units in 2006 to 60,438 units this year.

The one bright spot in the unit shipments and revenue picture was LTO tape libraries. LTO libraries accounted for 88% of all library shipments and 58% of revenue last year, up from 81% of total unit shipments and 52% of revenues in 2005. Unit shipments of LTO libraries topped 51,000 last year, representing revenue of $1.053 billion.

Freeman Reports expects LTO to continue its dominance, predicting that LTO libraries will account for 96% of unit shipments, and 64% of revenues, in 2012.

LTO tape drive manufacturers include Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Quantum, and Tandberg. LTO library/autoloader manufacturers include Breece Hill, Fujitsu, IBM, Overland Storage, Qualstar, Quantum, Spectra Logic, Sun/StorageTek, and Tandberg. LTO media manufacturers include vendors such as Fujifilm, Imation, Maxell, Sony, and TDK.

The growth in the LTO space came at the expense of all other tape formats, including the half-inch, DLT, and 8mm formats.

For more information on LTO, see
LTO-4 on the way: Long live tape
IBM ships LTO-4, broadens encryption

This article was originally published on May 03, 2007