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Sony doubles up with AIT-4

Still chopping away at the DAT market

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CeBIT Sony has launched the fourth generation of its AIT (Advanced Intelligent Tape) format at CeBIT, doubling the capacity of the previous AIT-3 to reach 200GB of uncompressed data per cartridge, or around half a terabyte compressed.

The increase is in line with Sony's roadmap for AIT, which also includes fifth and sixth generations at 400GB and 500GB respectively. AIT-4 is read/write compatible with AIT-3 and can read AIT-1 and 2 tapes as well. Sony also offers write-once read-many (Worm) AIT tapes for archiving and data retention.

Mark Lufkin, Sony Europe's storage sales & marketing boss, says there were 500,000 AIT drives and 10 million AIT media in use during 2003, and AIT-4 certainly provides plenty of growth for those existing users. It should keep Sony in competition with LTO and SuperDLT too, and as the figure of 20 cassettes per drive suggests, it has sold a lot of AIT into tape libraries and autoloaders.

IDC says that AIT is doing pretty well, gaining market share in Europe and leading the race to supplant DDS-DAT. However, its tape research analyst Gavin Metier adds that the arrival of the fifth generation DAT-72 is slowing the decline in DAT sales.

That also means AIT has not been as successful here as Sony planned - after all, the desire to migrate DAT users to AIT was why it did not join HP and Certance (née Seagate Removable Storage) in developing DAT-72 in the first place.

The higher capacity of AIT-4 is made possible by using a higher density magnetic recording surface, a slightly longer tape and a better-optimised data structure. The read/write head in the drive spins faster than in AIT-3 too, enabling the AIT-4 drives to transfer data at a sustained 24MB/sec. ®

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