Tape Alive And Well: New Formats Coming

Many industry observers and insiders, especially those whose fortunes are tied to hard disk sales like to talk about the imminent death of tape.

However, development of new tape technologies continues, as seen this week in new products from Sun Microsystems, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, or Sony.

Two of the vendors, Sun and IBM, went for capacity by unveiling the industry's first tape drives that provide up to 1 Tbyte of raw capacity on a single tape cartridge.

HP and Sony, meanwhile, introduced the latest version of their Digital Audio Tape (DAT) tape technology with double the performance and capacity of earlier units.

The tape business is not dead, but it is changing, said Dan Carson, vice president of marketing and business development at Open Systems Solutions (OSSI), a Willow Grove, Penn.-based storage solution provider.

Carson said that his company is not selling as much tape as it used to.

In general, he said, two types of companies are still using tape. "Either they are very small shops where tape works for backups, or large enterprises who use it for deep archiving," he said.

Midrange companies will use tape for SLA (service level agreements), where they are required to keep copies of data onsite and offsite to meet corporate objectives, Carson said. "Not a lot of them are moving to online storage as a service," he said. "They don't want to give up control of their data."

Sun this week unveiled the Sun StorageTek T10000B tape drive, a 4-Gbits-per-channel Fibre Channel drive capable of storing up to 1 Tbyte of data on a single cartridge. It is a follow-on to Sun's StorageTek 10000, which stored up to 500 Gbytes of data on a cartridge.

Both drives have a native data transfer rate of 120 Gbytes per second, or 360 Gbytes per second when data is compressed.

The Sun StorageTek T10000B is expected to be available later this month and come with a list price starting at $37,000, Sun said.

IBM's new IBM System Storage TS1130 tape drive, also unveiled this week, stores up to 1 Tbyte of uncompressed data on a single cartridge with a native data rate of 160 Mbytes per second. The company said that is up to 54 percent faster than its previous generation drive.

The TS1130 can use either existing 3592 rewritable cartridges as well as WORM (write once, read many) cartridges.

The TS1130 is slated to ship starting on September 5 with a starting list price of $39,050.

DAT 160 photo (DAT 320 images are not yet available) courtesy of HP

HP and Sony this week said they are continuing development of their Digital Audio Tape (DAT) format, and introduced the next model, the DAT 320.

The DAT 320, which is expected to be available sometime next year, allows up to 320 Gbytes of data to be stored on a single cartridge with backup speeds of up to 86 Gbytes per hour using 2:1 compression, or twice the performance and capacity of the current DAT 160 model.