Sony Tape Drive Breaks 1TB Barrier


Sony Electronics has begun shipping to tape library automation OEMs what the company claims is the first available tape drive to break the 1 terabyte capacity barrier.

The first-generation SAIT drives and media expand Sony's mid-range Advanced Intelligent Tape technology products. With the ability to store up to 1.3 terabytes of compressed data (500 gigabytes native) on a half-inch tape cartridge, SAIT-1 is "the industry's highest capacity tape drive and the first available product to break the 1TB capacity barrier," Sony said. The enterprise-class drive also features a sustained transfer rate of up to 78 MB per second (30 MB/sec native) for efficient data recording and fast data recovery.

Sony said its internal business units and OEM partners will offer automated SAIT-1 solutions for sale beginning this spring. Tape library manufacturers such as ADIC, Qualstar and Spectra Logic have expressed interest in supporting the integration of SAIT drives and media into half-inch tape automation solutions, the company said. Later this year, Sony is also expected to introduce a SAIT version of its PetaSite tape library system.

"Sony's introduction of its SAIT tape technology provides customers the highest capacity tape solution commercially available today," said IDC Research Manager Robert Amatruda. "SAIT will enable midrange tape customers to have enterprise-class capacity at very competitive price-points."

"The super drive segment is expected to comprise nearly 80 percent of compact tape drive revenue by 2007," said Freeman Reports President Robert Abraham. "SAIT-1 launches Sony into a leadership position in the high-end tape market and offers a compelling blend of capacity and performance for the automation market."

SAIT-1 Libraries Available in Several Configurations

SAIT-1 libraries will be available in a number of configurations, with a 1,000-cartridge library capable of storing up to 1.3 petabytes of data. With the number of companies managing a petabyte or more of data, which is expected to multiply in the next two years, an ultra-scalable, cost-effective storage solution is a necessity, Sony said.

Steve Baker, vice president for Tape Storage Solutions at Sony Electronics' Business Systems and Solutions Company, said SAIT technology gives Sony and its OEM partners the ability to offer storage solutions not possible with current half-inch tape technologies.

"SAIT represents a new level of high-capacity, high-performance tape backup with scalability limits that surpass previous industry achievements, which help maintain tape's cost per gigabyte advantage over disk technology," Baker said. Customers working with large databases, video production and broadcast applications, e-commerce transaction processing and storage, and medical imaging "have eagerly awaited a product like SAIT, which combines high data throughput with unparalleled capacity and low cost of ownership," he said.

SAIT drives leverage Sony's AIT architecture in a 5.25-inch extended drive footprint, combining the data density advantages of helical-scan recording with the longer and wider tape usually associated with linear tape drives to achieve a much higher data storage capacity, Sony said.

Ultra-SCSI and Fibre Channel Interface Options

For connectivity with a variety of networks, SAIT-1 drives come equipped with either an Ultra-SCSI or Fibre Channel interface. The Fibre Channel port supports up to 2Gbps, so SAIT drives can provide high-speed backup functions within a storage area network (SAN).

As one of the largest recording media manufacturers in the world, Sony said it is also producing SAIT-1 tape cartridges for the industry. SAIT-1 media is based on Advanced Metal Evaporated (AME) tape technology. Through the AME process, nearly 100 percent active magnetic material is evaporated onto a substrate and then coated for exceptional durability and results in exceptional data integrity.

"The magnetic properties, storage density and durability of AME tape technology make it a natural choice for SAIT media," Baker said. "We've been able to leverage existing manufacturing capabilities to develop SAIT-1 media, and we're confident it will be of the highest quality and durability."

In addition to Sony, Matsushita Kotobuki Electronics Industries and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., known for Panasonic-brand products, will provide the market with alternative manufacturing sources for SAIT drives and media, respectively.

Sony said that in 2001, it set the record for tape storage density by demonstrating 11.5 Gbits of data on a square inch of tape. By 2010, Baker said that Sony will be able to scale SAIT technology up to 10 TB (native) on a single half-inch tape cartridge.

Currently, the company's SAIT roadmap extends to a fourth-generation, with the aim of doubling capacity and performance from generation to generation. SAIT-4 technology is expected to feature up to 4 TB of native capacity in a single cartridge (10.4 TB compressed). Sony also said it intends to maintain backward read/write media compatibility with at least the previous generation of SAIT drives.

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