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While representing only a fraction of disk sales — $4 billion versus $16 billion in 2009 — tape sales continue to grow, led by the Linear Tape Open (LTO) format, which accounted for 83 percent of total tape sales. HP, market leader of this segment with 32 percent share, is refreshing its entire lineup with substantial performance increases that should appeal to both new and existing customers.

“We find tape still has a very important role to play… (and) still resonates very strongly with our partners and users,” says Simon Watkins, Worldwide Product Marketing Manager for Tape
Products, HP StorageWorks. He tells Channel Insider that the three key challenges facing customers and the channel are: how to reduce costs; how to manage risk and enhance security; and how to keep up with exponential data growth.

The solution, he says, are the LTO-5 Ultrium tape drives, MSL tape libraries, and LTO-5 Ultrium data cartridges. The only other vendor shipping LTO-5 offerings is Quantum, which made its announcement at the start of March.

The LTO-5 benefits are significant, says Watkins, including double the performance and up to 75 percent less media than previous generations. With a 6-Gigabit per second (Serial Attached SCSI) SAS or 8-Gigabit per second Fibre Channel connection, the tape cartridges store up to three terabytes of data per cartridge in under three hours. Storage hardware costs are 52 percent lower per gigabyte, and the new tape libraries are 36 percent lower dollar per gigabyte than the predecessors.

Hardware-based encryption improves security of both idle and data in transit. In addition to moving to the next generation of LTO, HP is throwing in a bonus, improved manageability. The free TapeAssure software proactively monitors the status, performance, utilization and health of drives as well as backup media. “It’s a very powerful management and monitoring tool.”

The new format also provides read and write compatibility with LTO-4 media and read compatibility with LTO-3. Watkins believes the value proposition will be especially attractive to existing LTO-3 customers, offering double the performance and four times the capacity at up to 52 percent lower costs.

“Typically what we see with the LTO market is customers tend to jump a generation. We think LTO-3 will be the sweet spot.”  There are also compelling arguments for LTO-4 to move up, he adds.

Watkins says the company is focusing on helping the channel tap into that upgrade opportunity with training, marketing and data mining initiatives. “We’re putting a lot of new programs around that.”