Tape Spins Right Round

Tape vendors continue to put out products at dizzying speeds.

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Pundits who say that tape is dying might want to mention that to tape vendors, who continue to put out products at dizzying speeds.

In line with phase one of its SuperDLT road map, Quantum is now shipping the SDLT 320, which with 160GB of native capacity and a 16MB/s native transfer rate, easily eclipses the LTO-1 and AIT-3 competition (100MB capacity, 12MB/s transfer rate).

Lower-end DLT tape also got a boost, with the introduction of the ValuSmart Tape 160 by tape drive OEM Benchmark Storage Innovations. The ValuSmart line, which now features Magneto-Resistive heads and 80GB of native capacity, is popular in lower-end configurations, thanks to its half-height design, says Steve Berens, Benchmark vice president of marketing. Most drives in the midrange segment are full-height, "but most servers won't even accept anything other than half-height nowadays," he says, relegating them to tape library environments.

Sensing a new market opportunity, Sony is repositioning its high-end DTF-2 tape format, a reel-to-reel tape usually used for applications such as digital video capture, for enterprise use. DTF-2 drives are now the basis of a new library, switch and software bundle called PetaApp that delivers 2TB/hr backup rates.

Exabyte, meanwhile, has stepped into the void being left in the sub-$1000 drive market by DDS, which manufacturers HP, Sony, and Seagate have slated for end-of-life. Exabyte's is targeting the waning DDS market with its new VXA-2 drive, which features 80MB native capacity and a 6MB/s transfer rate. Exabyte manufactures a line of autoloaders based on the VXA-2, and has OEM relationships with Compaq, Apple, and Toshiba.

Even lowly 9-track tape, which major vendors like Emtech, E-mag, and Imation have all left for dead, is being resuscitated. This spring, computer supply distributor Media Mastr CPI began manufacturing NineTrax, a 9-track 6250 BPI reel-to-reel tape.

"The big guys, they need a multi-million dollar market, but we don't," says Bob Klar, Media Mastr president. "We feel there are still enough customers out there to justify going into the tape manufacturing business."

This was first published in August 2002

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