Tape-Library Market Soft And May Get Softer, Analyst Says

In a report released this month by Freeman Reports, based here, the analyst firm said that 65,400 tape libraries were shipped worldwide in 2002, a growth of 3 percent over 2001. Revenue slipped 8 percent during the same time period.

Last year at this time, Freeman predicted tape library sales would reach 70.6 million units.

Bob Abraham, president of Freeman and author of the report, said he originally expected the market to recover in mid-2002. But despite a good fourth quarter, that recovery did not happen.

Abrams now expects this year to be soft as well, based on discussions with vendors, distributors and large integrators such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

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"The most optimistic people we talked to only forecast a rise of 5-to-10 percent," he said. "Several expect a fall of 10 percent or more."

As a result, tape library sales for this year are expected to actually dip a bit to 64.3 million units. "I was surprised at the pessimism in the industry," Abraham said. "Our forecast is more optimistic than any of the vendors'."

In terms of technology, LTO has moved way ahead of the pack. LTO library sales were barely ahead of sales of DLT and SuperDLT library sales --25.7 million LTO units versus 25.3 million units--last year. However, Abraham expects 28.3 million LTO libraries to be sold in 2003, compared to 20.8 million DLT/SDLT libraries.

While DLT library sales are falling, SDLT library sales are growing, said Abraham. He said SDLT lost traction in the market because it came out seven or eight months after the September 2000 introduction of LTO.

"That was when the economy was good, so LTO gained a lot of market traction," he said. "The only thing SDLT brought to the party was backward compatibility (with DLT)."