Tape Automation Market Bucks Economic And IT Slump

Unit shipments of tape libraries grew 3 percent in 2001 compared with 2000, reaching 63,500 units, according to the report. Revenue for the year dropped 4 percent to $2.2 billion.

For 2002, total tape library shipments should hit 70,600 units, and revenue should climb to $2.3 billion. Shipments are expected to climb to 134,800 units in 2007, the report said.

Fastest growth came from tape libraries using the LTO Ultrium tape drives, far outshipping those based on its nearest competitor, SuperDLT, said Bob Abraham, president of Freeman Reports.

The key to the rise in LTO Ultrium-based library shipments was time to market, Abraham said. Ultrium drives were introduced to the market more than a half-year earlier than SuperDLT drives. "Tape library vendors wanted to have the highest-performance and highest-capacity drives possible," he said. "Since the Ultrium drives came out sooner, they were the only kid on the block for six to nine months. So all the vendors quickly moved to LTO."

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If SuperDLT drives had come out at about the same time as LTO, the race would have been even, said Abraham. Because SuperDLT was compatible with the large DLT installed base, the new LTO technology would have been a tougher sell. "Now that SuperDLT is out, library vendors are adopting it," he said. "So next year we won't have any headlines talking about runaway LTO sales."

Tape library shipments in general did well in 2001 despite the economic slump and the drop in storage sales, Abraham said. Before the slump started, but when people were warning that it was coming, storage companies said they were immune to any slumps. "But we were not immune," he said. "We just got hit later than the rest of the industry. Storage cuts were not quite as deep as the rest of the industry, and tape was the last to see any effects."

Library shipments did take a big hit after the September terrorist attack, dropping to zero for the last three weeks of that month. But sales came back with a vengeance in December, more than making up for September's slump, said Abraham. "There was a heightened awareness of the need for tape backup because of Sept. 11," he said. "People realized they could do without as much disk space, but not without tape."