Sony Prepares To Ship AIT-4 Tape Drives, Media


Sony Electronics this week extended its Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT) format into its fourth generation.

The company's AIT-4 tape drives allow up to 200 Gbytes of data to be moved to a tape cartridge at up to 24 Mbytes per second before compression, said Brett Schechter, senior manager of tape solutions for the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

With 2.6:1 compression, up to 520 Gbytes of data can go to an AIT-4 tape at up to 62.4 Mbytes per second, Schechter said. AIT-4 drives can write to AIT-3 tapes, and can also read data from tapes that were written using AIT-1, AIT-2 and AIT-3 drives.

Initial shipments of AIT-4 drives with Ultra160 SCSI interface is scheduled for September, Schechter said. A SATA version could ship as early as the first quarter of 2005, followed by an iSCSI version, depending on demand, he said.

WORM (write once, read many) versions for compliance and regulatory use are expected to ship late this year once the necessary tape cartridges are available, he said.

New with the fourth generation of AIT drives is a new head design combined with a new type of tape with reduced particle size compared to previous tape technology. The new technology allows a mean time between failure of about 400,000 hours at 100-percent duty cycles, Schechter said. The new drives also feature a sealed deck similar to that found in the company's high-end Super AIT drives to reduce airborne contaminants.

Other vendors also are updating their tape drives to the new AIT-4 drives. Boulder, Colo.-based Spectra Logic is the first OEM tape library vendor to launch a library using AIT-4 drives, according to Spectra Logic. The drives will be available in the Spectra 64K, 20K, 10K and 2K libraries, as well as of the company's stand-alone drive series.

Other OEMs, including Simi Valley, Calif.-based Qualstar and Louisville, Colo.-based Breece Hill, are expected to unveil tape automation products shortly, Schechter said.

Looking forward, Sony expects to ship AIT-5 drives and media with a native capacity of 400 Gbytes and throughput of 48 Mbytes per second to be available in about two years. Following those products two years after that, Sony will release AIT-6, with native capacity of 800 Gbytes and data throughput of up to 96 Mbytes per second, Schechter said.