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Despite their mechanical components, the reliability of tape libraries ranks high among Quality Awards survey respondents.|
This year's installment of the Diogenes Labs-Storage magazine Quality Awards for tape libraries revealed a community of largely satisfied users. Last year, no vendor received close to a 6.0 rating from Storage readers; this year's tape libraries survey netted vendors a slew of 6.0-plus scores. On our 1.0-8.0 scoring scale where an 8.0 indicates total satisfaction, a 6.0 is a very good score. Even the lowest overall score in our survey (a 5.93) represents a very solid showing (see "About the Quality Awards," and "Inside this survey," below).
While it's tempting to say there were no losers in our survey, some vendors did better than others. This year, IBM Corp. took top honors in the enterprise category with a 6.29, narrowly edging out Sun Microsystems Inc. (6.27). This was IBM's first win in the enterprise tape library category after placing third the previous two years. In the midrange tape category, the same two vendors lead the pack, but in reverse order: Sun (6.30) and IBM (6.15).
The dynamics of the tape library market contrast significantly with other storage product categories. For example, disk arrays are dynamic and driven by innovation, but tape libraries are fairly stable, a healthy but mature market
| segment. One consequence of this maturity is consolidation. Since our first survey, ADIC, Exabyte and StorageTek have been acquired. In our first survey, 16 company product lines qualified as finalists in the enterprise and midrange product categories. This number dropped to 12 last year and was just nine this year. Some of this may be explained by the vagaries of survey responses. For example, Spectra Logic Corp. and Qualstar Corp. failed to garner enough responses to be finalists this year (see "Products included in the survey," below).
We attribute this to survey response self-selection, rather than business climate, as both vendors seem to be faring well and increasing revenue.
At a time when seemingly every politician is claiming to be the candidate of change and the comeback kid, in our survey Dell Inc. registered a very impressive comeback over previous years. Having finished in last place (seventh) in the previous survey among midrange tape products, its score soared from 4.98 to 6.12 in the current survey. This improvement was enough to vault the company into third place, only .03 points behind IBM among midrange libraries. Dell's improvement was confirmed by the willingness of users to repurchase its tape products, with responses rising from 63.3% last year to a more respectable 73.5% this year.
For most of the tape library vendors, their scores in our five ratings categories bounced around much more than usual. Although IBM and Sun obviously did well, each was rated both first and last within different categories. No vendor was able to run the table, and no vendor consistently polled last.
This was first published in March 2008