Despite the falling price of hard disk drives, tape storage is still a common choice for low-cost data back-up.
Demand for tape drives with a capacity of 20Gbytes or less is expected to shrink dramatically as drives with a capacity of 400Gbytes or more increasingly become a mainstream choice for back-up storage systems, said Masashi Takao, a director at Sony's tape streamer business division.
To meet this expected shift in demand, Sony is working on development of its advanced intelligent tape (AIT) format, which reached its third generation in October. Sony has doubled AIT's capacity and transfer speed with each new generation, Takao said.
AIT3, priced at about $137 to $161 per tape (£97 to £114), offers a capacity of 100Gbytes per tape and a data transfer speed of 12mbps. The company plans to keep doubling AIT's capacity and transfer speed until AIT6, which is expected to hold 800Gbytes per tape with a data transfer speed of 96mbps by 2007, Takao said.
Development of AIT6 is expected to be made possible as a result of a breakthrough at Sony's research labs. The company succeeded in recording data at a density of 6.5Gbytes per square inch, which would allow an 8mm AIT-sized tape to have a capacity of 1Tbyte.
In a bid to compete with tapes from vendors that use the rival digital linear tape (DLT) standard, Sony recently announced a licensing alliance with Matsushita to develop the Super AIT format.
By changing the size of the tape's cartridge to match competing standards such as DLT, Super DLT and linear tape open (LTO), which are larger than AIT, Super AIT tapes can hold five times more data than AIT tapes, said Yuji Takahashi, a spokesman for Sony.
The first generation of Super AIT will offer a capacity of 500Gbytes per tape with a data transfer rate of 30mbps, and is expected to be available in November 2002. The company expects to be able to offer tapes with a capacity of 4tbytes by 2008, Takahashi said. By comparison, Super DLT tapes, launched earlier this year, have a 110Gbyte capacity.
Other companies planning to roll out Super AIT products include Advanced Digital Information, Spectra Logic and Qualstar.