Long Live The Tape

With the explosion of digital data across enterprises, globally, 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 clamouring 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 overbearing 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 testing 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 research functions on
different futuristic areas like AI, utility computing, grid computing and
nanotechnology, among others. However, the importance of Bristol Labs in HP’s
overall storage roadmap can be gauged from the fact that the Nearline Storage
Division contributes nearly 25% of the revenues for HP’s StorageWorks
Division, as asserted 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 constitute nearly 95%
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% 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% 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% market share
globally, there seem to be very few takers for proprietary technologies like
Travan and AIT/VXA, which have a mere 10% and 8% market share, respectively. In
Asia-Pacific, the proportion is even more lop-sided with LTO taking up 57% of
the market share followed by DDS/DAT and DLT at 24% and 15%, respectively. By
revenues, Asia-Pacific contributes 19% of the global tape market in H12004.
Incidentally, within Asia-Pacific, India seemed to be the leading market with
21% market share followed by Australia, China and Korea at 19%, 14% and 10%

According to a Purchasing Intentions Survey conducted by TechTarget,
including more than 1000 CIOs globally, in 2004, 79% 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 division, feels that
economics of cost, reliability as backup media and easy transportability 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% and 51% market
share, respectively. Even within Asia-Pacific, HP in H12004 garnered 60% 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 constitutes 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
portfolio. 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 Lifecycle 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 Protector version 5.5, the company’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 announcements may put them temporarily ahead of the pack, but the
ILM race continues.

Rajneesh De in
Bristol (The author was hosted by HP)

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