LTO technology has become a firm fixture in the tape automation market, and its latest LTO2 incarnation will feature in 50 percent of tape libraries and autoloaders, according to Norway's Tandberg Data.

LTO was developed by a consortium including HP, IBM and Seagate as a rival to Quantum's DLT which had a monopoly once midrange users needed something bigger than DDS-DAT. Quantum responded by licensing DLT to Tandberg and Benchmark, subsequently buying the latter company outright.

Since LTO's arrival, the two formats have played leapfrog on capacity and performance. Delays in introducing the SuperDLT generation let LTO take the lead, SDLT-320 took it back but LTO2 is once more on top. And now Quantum is late with the SDLT-600, which had been mapped for a mid-2003 launch.

Although Tandberg also holds the European rights to SDLT, marketing director Jack Richardson said that as far as tape automation was concerned, the company has to offer both formats and has been selling LTO-based products for some time now.

"We are viewed as a DLT company which is true on the drive side, but on the automation side it's 50/50 between DLT and LTO, so not offering LTO would lock us out of half the market," he said.

Tandberg will now offer LTO2 across its whole range of tape libraries and autoloaders, using drives from both HP and IBM.

"We expect to sell more and more LTO2, and phase out the older DLT and LTO drives, because in automation the important thing is data density," said Richardson. "LTO2 brings double the capacity and puts LTO2 libraries ahead of SDLT for two reasons - the cartridge is thinner, and it's 200GB per cartridge native versus 160GB for SDLT-320. But the 300GB next generation SDLT-600 is coming."

He acknowledged that it had taken time to make LTO2 fully available:. "Although HP launched drives in April, IBM's weren't available until around June, and Seagate still doesn't have drives out yet.

"The Quantum-developed LTO2 libraries that we sell use HP drives which double the data transfer rate [of LTO], our other LTO2 products use IBM drives which more than double it," he added.

In Tandberg's latest quarterly results, storage solutions such as tape libraries made up eight percent of its total revenue, double the proportion for the same period last year. "It's where the market is going," said Richardson.