Sony has announced a speeded-up AIT-2 tape drive, the AIT-2 Turbo. (We hinted that it might be.) Its I/O rate is 12MB/sec, meaning up to 43GB/hour of uncompressed data. The native capacity is 80GB. Sony uses a 2.6:1 compression ratio to produce a 208GB compressed capacity. You are unlikely to actually achieve 43GB/hour unless you backup a single large file and your server is uninterrupted though.

AIT uses 8mm helical scan tape which produces smaller tape catridges and and drives than the half inch tape used by LTO, DLT and S-AIT formats. The AIT-2 Turbo drive uses AIT-3 recording technology to produce denser data signals and an effective speed increase over AIT-2 (6MB/sec I/O rate) although the tape physically moves at the same speed as in AIT-2 drives.

AIT-2 Turbo with its 80GB capacity and 12MB/sec I/O rating fits in above AIT-1 Turbo (40GB and 6MB/sec) and below AIT-3 (100GB and also 12 MB/sec). Turbo AIT-2 efectively replaces AIT-2. AIT-Turbo tapes cannot be read by AIT-2 drives.

It can be compared to Quantum's VS160 drive with its 80GB capacity and 8MB/sec transfer rate, a third slower. SDLT 220 would offer a closer match to the new Sony drive with its 110G and 11MB/sec - but it has been retired. LTO-1 offers 100GB and a 10MB/sec I/O rate. DAT-72 is not in the same league with its 36GB and 3MB/sec I/O. Exabyte's VXA-2 is in the same area: 80GB capacity but with a 6MB/sec transfer rate. Sony has sped past them all.

AIT-2 Turbo is pushing up against the low-end of the superdrive space. It is slightly cheaper, at 800 euros street pricing, than the VS160's $850 euros. The media is cheaper than AIT-2 media because the ribbon is shorter.

The drive is sealed against dust entry. Sony says that AIT-2 Turbo has a 300,000 hour mean time between failure rating and is certified for use on HP, IBM, Dell and FSC servers.