Sony, HP halt future digital data storage products

Two of the top three vendors of Digital Data Storage (DDS) tape say they will no longer develop future lines of the popular data backup product, while the third producer said it has no "current" plans to continue its line.

Sony Electronics' Tape Streamer Products Division said last week that it will replace the 10-year-old Digital Audio Tape (DAT) technology with its own Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT) line. Hewlett-Packard announced its departure from future DDS incarnations last year.

Meanwhile, Seagate Technology said last week that it has no plans to come out with a new version of its DDS-5 product line. "We are in the process of doing our due diligence," said Bob Hawkins, director of product line management for Travan/DDS at Seagate. "Today, internally, I don't have a committed program."

Sony product manager Satpreet Singh said that although the firm had seen an increase in DDS sales for the four years prior to 2000, those sales took a 15 per cent to 20 per cent dive last year. He added that the DDS technology had almost reached an end and didn't have enough capacity to lure Sony into producing the next version.

The latest incarnation of the DAT technology is the DDS-4 with 40GB of compressed capacity and speeds up to 4.8M bit/sec.

Robert Amatruda, an analyst at IDC, said DDS is the most common tape drive technology in the marketplace, and although sales are slowing, "it still has life left in it."

"You don't end them and have users jump onto something else," he said. "It takes a long time to transition users away from that technology."

Sony Electronics, which has been shipping its enhanced AIT-1 drives since January, said it increased the performance of the drive speed from 3M bit/sec. to 4M bit/sec. and dropped its list price to appeal to its lower-end customers.

The AIT technology will offer up to 100GB per cartridge with AIT-3 starting in the third quarter of this year. The technology will provide 800GB per cartridge before the end of the decade, Sony said.

Sony said it is committed to supporting the almost 8 million drives it has sold during the past decade. The company expects to sell 80,000 AIT drives annually.

HP announced in August that it wouldn't produce any future DDS-5 products and would switch to making a low-end version of digital linear tape technology.