Sony launches AIT-4

Sony has improved the throughput rates and capacity of its AIT drives, feeding its installed base. But a new version of LTO out today zooms past it

Sony Electronics of America has released the fourth generation of its Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT) drive, satisfying a hungry installed base of users that have been stuck with lower capacity drives and transfer rates, while the rest of the industry has surged ahead.

The latest AIT-4 drives and media double the storage capacity and transfer rates from the last generation. The drives offer up to 200 GB of native capacity (520 GB with compression) and a transfer rate of 24 MBps in a 3.5-inch form factor.

However, the latest Super DLT drives from Quantum Corp. offer 72 MBps throughput and 300 GB capacity (600 GB compressed) and LTO-3, announced today offers capacity of 800GB (compressed) and up to 160MBps compressed data transfer speed.

Sony officials point out that its Super AIT (SAIT) drives offer comparable rates to the new SDLT products and that SAIT-2 will offer 1 TB of native capacity when it ships early next year. SAIT is aimed at high-end, large enterprises while AIT is for smaller businesses.

Good migrations

For the installed base of AIT customers (approximately 5,500) the wait for 200 GB is finally over. "Many of them have been ready to move on for quite a while. But users don't migrate to other technologies easily, they'd rather fight than switch as it's a burden," said Bob Abraham, president of Freeman Reports.

Sony said the roadmap for AIT includes up to a sixth generation that will be available before the end of the decade. The company prides itself on having all the formats still shipping for backwards compatibility.

Enhancements to AIT-4 include a new method for applying the magnetic layer to the tape, an enforced coating layer, and a newly developed lubricant for stable operation. These tweaks result in the tape being smoother, minimizing the spacing loss between the magnetic head and the magnetic layer, which provides the higher density.

Shipments to OEMs will start in September and Sony branded models will be available a month later. Pricing for AIT-4 will be below 40 cents per GB.

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