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IBM beats HP to the punch with LTO-3

Reversing the trend of the previous generation, IBM announces LTO-3 ahead of HP, offering users more capacity and better performance out of their tape systems.

IBM Corp. has beaten Hewlett Packard Co. to announce Generation 3 LTO, offering the fastest LTO tape drive in the market, giving it a lead, at least in mindshare, at a time when users are investing heavily in data protection products.

HP, first to market with LTO-2, is expected to make its LTO-3 announcement on Dec 13. The third leg of the LTO consortium, Certance, now owned by Quantum Corp., introduced its LTO-3 product in mid-October.

IBM's TotalStorage Generation 3 LTO drive provides 80 MBps native throughput, almost 20% faster than the Certance product. This speed equates to the drive backing up more than five million entries of a telephone book in just three seconds, IBM claimed. The capacity of the new tape drive is double that of the previous generation at 800 GB and will be available in mid-December for a list price of $6500.

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In addition to the performance increases, IBM's LTO-3 drive is more reliable than previous generations as it puts less strain on the media improving its lifespan. It includes features like intelligent media braking that gradually decreases the speed of the motors and media in the event of power loss, rather than allowing the drive to stop abruptly, which causes tape damage, breakage and stretching.

Peter Gerr, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, noted that investment protection, something many vendors pay lip service to but don't deliver, is another significant feature of this product. "IBM's backward compatibility story for LTO is impressive: This latest Generation 3 LTO can read both LTO-1 and LTO-2 media, and can read and write to both LTO - and LTO-3 media, enabling users to reduce the capital costs of buying more or new media every time a new drive is released," he said. Many companies have tape media budgets that run into the tens of millions of dollars annually, and so the ability to preserve media and extend its life provides significant cost savings.

Gartner Inc. released its report, "Tape Drive Market Shares: Worldwide," in March, 2004:

  • In the half-inch cartridge segment (high-end), StorageTek's 9940 and 9840 had 65% of the market, while IBM's 3480, 3490, 3590 and 3592 had 30%.
  • While the overall tape market declined in 2003, small form-factor tape drive market share (DLT, SDLT, LTO) actually grew by 77,000 units.
  • Units of LTO shipped increase by 50% year over year and shipped twice as many units as SDLT/DLT
Freeman Reports backs up these statements in their report, "Tape Library Market Down in 2003, LTO Only Bright Spot:"
  • DLT/SDLT library shipments declined 29% in 2003
  • LTO Library Shipments up 38% in 2003
  • Total demand for tape libraries fell to 62,000 units in 2003 but is projected to recover to 67,900 units in 2004 and to 101,300 units in 2009, a compound annual growth rate of 9%.

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