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Sony releases fourth-generation AIT tape

Sony has launched AIT-4, the fourth generation of its Advanced Intelligent Tape format, which has double the capacity of the preceding AIT-3.

The doubling is achieved by an areal density increase from 720Mbit per square inch to 1170Mbit per square inch, a 7% longer tape and an optimised data structure.

Mark Lufkin, a general manager in Sony Europe's storage solutions division, said, "AIT-4 offers a backwards compatible upgrade path to our existing AIT-1, 2 and 3 products. There were 500,000 AIT drives and 10 million AIT media in use during 2003."

AIT is replacing DDS as the entry-level tape format; according to IDC.

AIT was developed by Sony in the mid-1990s when it wanted to offer significantly more capacity than the existing DDS 4. The other DDS consortium members, Hewlett-Packard and Seagate Technology, now Certance, have developed DAT-72 which offers 36GB, equivalent to AIT1's 35GB. DDS has been left a long way behind.

AIT4 is not an entry-level in itself, being mid-range. It is compatible with AIT1 and 2 which are entry-level formats.

Other mid-range 200GB capacity level tapes use half-inch media and linear recording technology, contrasting with Sony's 8mm helical scan recording. They include Quantum's SDLT600 at 300GB native. The earlier SDLT320 offers 160GB.

The LTO consortium of HP, IBM and Seagate has LTO 2 at 200GB with LTO 3 expected next year at 400GB. A transfer speed of 20Mbit/s for LTO 2 means Sony's new format is 20% faster. SDLT600 is much faster at 32Mbit/s.

Quantum's VS80 entry-level format is 40GB native with its VS160 offering 80GB. These roughly match AIT1 and 2.

The AIT roadmap has AIT5 and 6 generations offering 400GB and 500GB respectively. Sony also has its Super AIT format with SAIT1 offering 500GB native capacity in its half-inch helical scan format.

AIT-4 drives will ship for evaluation in the second quarter of this year with volume shipments in the autumn. Sony autoloaders and libraries will be updated to use the format. No pricing information has been issued.

Chris Mellor writes for Techworld.com

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