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LTO thrives despite down market, LTO2 on the way

Despite a two-year decline in the tape storage market, the LTO tape format has managed to grow its share of the pie.

The outlook for tape backup is dismal. But according to a new report, the growing demand for Linear Tape-Open (LTO), could be the silver lining to the dark cloud of decline. And now a new generation of LTO tape technology is expected to fuel the segment further.

Freeman Reports' latest Compact Tape Outlook states that last year revenue was down in every category except LTO, which showed a whopping 280% gain.

"Within the network storage space, LTO was the biggest success story in 2001, making significant gains against all competing tape technologies," said Bob Abraham, president and analyst for Freeman Reports, which is based in Ojai, Calif.

The shift from other forms of tape technology to LTO is a result of users moving from desktop backup to network backup, he said.

Shipments of LTO drives jumped to 92,000 units in 2001, twice the number of shipments of rival drive technology Super DLTtape (SDLT), which began shipping six months after the first LTO drive.

Abraham "cautiously" predicted a slow but steady recovery for the tape market.

The LTO Ultrium tape triad, made up of Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., and Seagate Removable Storage Solutions, is banking on it.

The group of companies, which created the LTO trademark and have pushed the technology by establishing a campaign they've dubbed the "Linear Tape-Open Program," announced this week that Benchmark Storage Innovations Inc. and Advanced Digital Information Corp. have licensed and started work on the Ultrium format Generation 2.

LTO Ultrium format Generation 2 features backward read and write capabilities with the first generation product, a storage capacity with 200G bytes native, and transfer speeds topping out at 40M byte/sec within a single-reel tape cartridge designed for backup, restore and archiving applications.

The three companies announced the shipment of the millionth Ultrium cartridge last November, little more than a year after it hit the market. The companies have a four-generation road map for LTO that specifies a doubling of capacity and performance with each generation, combined with requirements for backward compatibility.

Product availability of the new generation of LTO is vendor dependent, but is expected in the first half of 2003.

The LTO Program offers several different license packages, from enhanced packages that provide the specifications to manufacture Ultrium Generation 2 products, to basic license packages that provide Ultrium technology format specifications and guidelines for interchangeability.

All LTO manufacturers must submit to an annual physical, as it were, consisting of compliance verification tests for data interchangeability.

SuperDLT 320 tape, which is available now, features a capacity of 160G bytes and a transfer rate of 16M byte/sec. Generation 2 of SDLT is not expected until late 2003 and, according its current road map, will feature 320G bytes of capacity and a 32M byte/sec transfer rate.

Sony offers AIT-3 tape drives with 100G bytes of capacity and a 12M byte/sec sustained transfer rate. Its next step is Super AIT (S-AIT), which is expected to be the highest capacity tape drive, storing up to one half a terabyte of data with a native transfer rate of up to 30M byte/sec.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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