Maxell Corp. has recently announced that it will be increasing its prices, and most other tape vendors are doing the same. The increases, blamed on everything from the cost of oil to the costs of research, will probably be industry-wide according to analysts. Maxell says it is still determining what its new prices for tape will be.
Bob Abraham, president of Ojai, Calif.-based storage analysts Freeman Reports, generally agrees that there is no need for storage administrators to take special action in the face of tape price increases. Abraham points out that the combination of price decreases, improved tape density and capacity, and the reduced use of tape because of the growth of disk-to-disk backups mean that the effective price per gigabyte of tape today is perhaps one-quarter of what it was two or three years ago. He compares the proposed price increases for tape to the situation in the home mortgage market where rates have gone up recently, but are still close to 40 or 50 year lows.
Tape prices have dropped by about 50% in the last year or so for midrange technologies such as DLT and LTO. "Whatever price increase will be a small percentage of what the price erosion has been," says Don Patrician, executive vice president of Maxell Corp. of America.
If the price increase is small, say 20% or so, storage managers' response strategies are limited. While it may make sense to accelerate purchases for immediate needs, long-term stockpiling, while possible because of tape's long shelf-life, isn't an effective strategy. The limiting factor is obsolescence. Patrician says that new tape technologies, promising lower costs per megabyte of storage even with higher media costs, will be coming on the market in the next 12 to 18 months. Many companies will be replacing or augmenting their tape storage system with the new technologies, such as DLT-2 or LTO-3.
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About the author: Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years, he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.