Long Live the tape!

DQW Bureau
11 Apr 2005


Will tape dominate over disk in the nearline storage market, and grow in

importance in the battle for ILM supremacy?

With the explosion of digital data across enterprises, glo-bally, storage has

become one of the intrinsic and salient components of the IT paraphernalia. For

many years, the industry has seen a raging debate on the merits and demerits of

tapes versus disks, as the preferred medium for nearline storage. While only

disk vendors like EMC and NetApps have been clamour-ing about the impending

demise of tapes, vendors like HP, IBM and StorageTek, who deal in both, have

been equivocal that tapes still outscore disks comfortably as the most

convenient form of storage-particularly in the archival and backup domain.

This seemed to be the over-bearing message that came out of the two-day

symposium on storage strategies-organized by HP in the sylvan settings of the

HP Labs at Bristol, in UK. Currently, housing the R&D center and the

post-manufacturing tes-ting labs for the various nearline storage products, the

Bristol Labs is the worldwide headquarter for HP's tape business. This

includes both LTO and DLT; currently, LTO is outselling DLT by nearly three to

four times.


In addition to storage, the HP Labs also performs rese-arch functions on

different futuristic areas like AI, utility computing, grid computing and

nanotechnology, among others. However, the impor-tance of Bristol Labs in HP's

overall storage roadmap can be gauged from the fact that the Nearline Storage

Division contributes nearly 25 percent of the revenues for HP's Sto-rageWorks

Division, as asser-ted David Rogers, Manager-Product Marketing, Tapes, HP UK.

No surprises here since HP's Nearline Storage Division currently offers LTO,

DLT/VS as well as the ubiquitous DDS/DAT, and these anyway con-stitute nearly 95

percent of the total nearline storage market globally. Factory exit reports by

IDC and Gartner point out that DDS/DAT continues to hog the lion's share with

46 percent of the market share in H12004. However, LTO, another form of nearline

storage, based on open standards developed by a consortium of HP, IBM and

Quantum, is catching up fast, already having garnered 16 percent of the market

share. While HP, IBM and Seagate started offering LTO almost at the same time,

and also formed the LTO consortium, Tandberg has now joined this forum as a full

licensee. Plus, Quantum's acquisition of Seagate's LTO business has now

brought the former into the overall gameplan.

While the perennially popular DLT/VS still maintains a 12 percent market

share globally, there seem to be very few takers for proprietary technologies

like Travan and AIT/VXA, which have a mere 10 percent and 8 percent market

share, respectively. In Asia-Pacific, the proportion is even more lop-sided with

LTO taking up 57 percent of the market share followed by DDS/DAT and DLT at 24

percent and 15 percent, respectively. By revenues, Asia-Pacific contributes 19

percent of the global tape market in H12004. Incidentally, within Asia-Pacific,

India seemed to be the leading market with 21 percent market share followed by

Australia, China and Korea at 19 percent, 14 percent and 10 percent

respectively. According to a Purchasing Intentions Survey conducted by

TechTarget, including more than 1000 CIOs globally, in 2004, 79 percent informed

they were likely to either increase or at least maintain their tape storage

spend in 2005.


Ben Wilkinson, who heads HP UK's StorageWorks divi-sion, feels that

economics of cost, reliability as backup media and easy trans-portability

options are the three main parameters where tape scores over disks. He adds a

few more advantages that have emerged in the last 12 months: "Because of

different disasters like 9/11, not only has there been an increase in awareness

about backups, archiving has also become vitally important-particularly of

rich media content. Add to it different compliance requirements like

Sarbannes-Oxley and BASEL II, especially in North America and EMEA, and a

gradual move towards tape automation products."

HP currently leads in both DDS/DAT and LTO domain with 56 percent and 51

percent market share, respectively. Even within Asia-Pacific, HP in H12004

garnered 60 percent of the total $208.45 mn tape market. HP's future roadmap

for nearline storage is also indicative of how important tape-related products

are going to be for the company. With the Gen 3 LTO released just now, HP's

total sale is now around half a million units. With worldwide annual sales of

350,000, the OEM business roughly con-stitutes half of HP's annual LTO sales;

HP has about 400 OEMs in its list.

On the DAT front, HP has sold 7.5 mn standalone drives; the sixth generation

DAT 160 is coming up in 2005 and the eighth generation is planned for 2007. On

the tape side, HP has come out with the concept of One Button Disaster Recovery

(OBDR) and the next generation, Gen 6, is likely in the next 18-24 months. This

unequivocal support for tape drives has prompted HP to further enhance their

port-folio. While in December the Ultrium 960 LTO drive was launched, February

14 saw the official release of the SDLT 320 and the DLT VS 160. The growing

enhancement of its tape related portfolio is also becoming a major weapon for HP

in the ongoing battle for Information Life-cycle Management (ILM) supremacy.

Like every vendor pursuing an ILM strategy, HP had some gaps in its ILM product

line. With these enhancements in its tape line, HP is attempting to address

those gaps.

StorageWorks Data Prote-ctor version 5.5, the com-pany's enterprise data

protection and disaster recovery product, has more than 200 new features.

Objects to disk are now backed up in such a way that they can easily be moved to

tape and restored to disk, allowing organizations to perform backup and restore

simultaneously. Those products and these significant enhancements keep them in

full competition with other ILM vendors like IBM and EMC. HP's recent

tape-related announce-ments may put them tem-porarily ahead of the pack, but the

ILM race continues.

Rajneesh De in

Bristol (The author was hosted by HP)