The market for super drives is alive and kicking, according to a recent report from Freeman Reports, with unit shipments more than doubling from 2001 to 2002.
Until recently, the only super drives on the market were SDLT from Quantum, and LTO from Seagate, HP, and IBM. Now, Sony has begun shipping its S-AIT drive to OEM partners ADIC, Spectra Logic, and Qualstar, and expects to see S-AIT libraries shipping this summer.
What does S-AIT offer over established Super drives? In a word: capacity. Sony's first generation S-AIT drive is rates at 500GB native, 1.3TB compressed, over three times the capacity offered by LTO-2 (200GB native, 400GB compressed). "Our roadmap extends out to 4TB by the end of the decade," says John Woelbern, Sony's director of tape OEM marketing and sales. "At any one time, we expect to have two times the capacity of any of our competitors."
Previous versions of AIT have seen limited success in the general purpose backup and archival market. Some, like Richard Mizrahi, StorageTek product marketing manager for OEM tape drives, say that's because it relies on unpopular helical scan--not linear--tape technology. Others point to AIT's old 8mm form factor. But with S-AIT, Sony has adopted the ubiquitous half-inch form factor. "That should make it much easier for manufacturers to develop AIT-based libraries," says Steve Whitner, ADIC marketing director.