Tape Library Market Going Strong

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, 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.

Pat Edwards, vice president of sales at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based solution provider, said his company has been doing very well with tape for the past three to four years.

Alliance's proficiency with enterprise-class tape and applying it to hierarchical storage management, disaster recovery, storage consolidation and other situations has proven to be a strong niche, Edwards said. "It seems like there are 10 competitors for every disk array opportunity, but with tape, only a couple of firms really know their stuff," he said.

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In the midrange business, especially with libraries of 100 tape slots or less, the competition is much more intense, Edwards said. "We do it, but it's more painful because the margins are slimmer," he said.

Fastest growth came from tape libraries using the LTO Ultrium tape drives, which far outshipped 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."

If SuperDLT drives had come out at about the same time as LTO did, the race would have been even because of DLT's installed base, Abraham said.

Tape library shipments did well in 2001 despite the economic slump and the drop in storage sales, Abraham said. Library shipments dropped to zero in the three weeks following the September terrorist attacks, but sales came back in December and more than made up for September's loss, he said.

"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."