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Super DLT Tape

By Rick Cook

In late September 2000, Quantum began shipping the first units of its SuperDLT format tape drives, which are supposed to allow for faster and more capacity tape products than the existing DLT products.

Unlike Linear Tape Optical (LTO), another major new tape format, SuperDLT is an improved version of an existing product: Quantum's popular DLT tape which dominates the mid-range tape market. However, it will not be fully backwards compatible with DLT tapes, at least not in the first generation. Quantum has announced an agreement with Benchmark Tape Systems, under which Quantum's SuperDLT drives will be able to read media from Benchmark's low-end 40 gigabyte DLT drives. In a recent FAQ page, Quantum also indicated the following, "Super DLTtape technology will offer backward-read compatibility with multiple generations of DLTtape 4000, 7000, and 8000 series drives and millions of DLTtape IV data cartridges."

SuperDLT is being offered in three performance ranges. At the low end is an 80G Byte tape capacity with a transfer rate of around 8M Bytes per second. The midrange uses 110G Byte tapes with a transfer rate of 11M Bytes per second. The high-end SuperDLT uses a similar capacity tape with a data rate in excess of 16M Bytes per second, all uncompressed. Quantum estimated the price on the first SuperDLT drives to be around $8000 list.

SuperDLT gets its improved performance from several new technologies, including Laser Guided Magnetic Recording (LGMR), an optical servo tracking system. A pivoting optical servo system in the drive will keep the heads aligned with the tracks on the tape and magneto-resistive cluster heads will let the drive write more information per track.

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