Tape Capacity Wars

The ongoing competition to create tape solutions capable of huge capacities isn't just for bragging rights, but with all the 'bragging' going on, the real question is how are tape drive manufacturers going to remain competitive and succeed in this evolving market?
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While demand for data storage continues to evolve, the need for increased capacity is also evolving, a need that has companies across the globe looking for storage providers that can meet their increasing capacity demands today and into the future.

While it has been said that linear tape drives allow users to more easily add read/write heads to increase throughput and data transfer rates, the folks at Sony argue that their Super Advanced Intelligent Tape (SAIT) technology has competitive data transfer rates, and they believe that at some point in its development process SAIT technology will provide 2.5 times the capacity of linear tape drives.

"SAIT achieves its capacity because of helical-scan recording techniques," says John Woelbern, director of OEM marketing for Sony Electronics' Tape Storage Solutions Division. "By using helical-scan recording, Sony can realize a track density that is over two times higher than linear technologies. This means that for a 600-meter half-inch LTO cartridge, Sony can achieve at least 2.5 times the capacity of any LTO member at the same point in time," he continues.

Based on the roadmap outlined by the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) consortium, Woelbern says that SAIT will maintain this capacity advantage over the format throughout the next decade. Additionally, he contends that while LTO's native capacity isn't expected to reach 1TB until its fifth generation in 2009, Sony's second-generation SAIT cartridges (SAIT-2) will feature over 1TB native when it debuts in two years. "Both half-inch linear drives and SAIT have the ability to increase performance by adding more read/write heads and channels, and there is no significant advantage of one over the other in this regard," says Woelbern.

SAIT's debut is only the latest step in the ongoing vendor competition to increase tape storage capacity and to reduce the cost of storage per gigabyte. However, the high-profile battle has been waged in the mid-market arena where LTO has faced off against Quantum's SDLT technology. Woelbern says that both LTO and SDLT utilize the same linear serpentine recording technology with the same limitations caused by wide track spacing and MP media utilization. In addition, Woelbern asserts that SDLT technology slightly lags the LTO implementation in regards to capacity and density.

"We believe that SAIT will have a larger advantage over the SDLT planned roadmap," he continues. He also notes that Sony's SAIT is an enterprise-class technology, and that Sony has a separate format, AIT, for the midrange market. "AIT-3 is the most current version of the format, with 100GB native (260 GB compressed) capacity and 12MB/s native (31MB/s compressed) data transfer rate. AIT-4, with double the capacity and performance, will debut this year," he says.

Page 2: Quantum and SDLT Also Battle Entrenched LTO

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