Certance is introducing the first LTO 3 tape drive, the CL800, and a cost-reduced LTO 2 drive in half-height format. It’s also introducing a Write Once Read Many (WORM) LTO3 format. Certance’s Ryan Malone, senior manager for product marketing, said, “We’re splitting the super tape market into two segments; performance and value. The LTO 2 half height drive has a much more affordable price point.”

LTO stands for Linear Tape Open and is a consortium of Certance, HP and IBM. The three suppliers collectively agree LTO Ultrium standards – Ultrium being the sub-brand, and then compete to produce drives and autoloaders using the format. LTO tape is regarded as a super tape format and competes at the medium and enterprise levels with Quantum’s SDLT (Super Digital Linear Tape) and Sony’s S-AIT (Super Advanced Intelligent Tape)

For quick reference:
- The LTO 3 format holds 400GB of uncompressed data (800GB compressed) and transfers it at up to 80MB/s (160GB/sec compressed).
- The SDLT600 format holds 300GB raw data (600GB compressed) and transfers it at c32MB/s.
- The SAIT format holds 500GB raw data and transfers it at 30MB/s.

Certance’s CL8000 transfers raw data at 68MB/sec.

Super tape is targeted at mid-range and large servers. Certance says its CL800 LTO Ultrium 3 drive, bundled with BakBone Software’s NetVault, is 33 percent more capacious than Quantum’s SDLT 600 and 88 percent faster, whilst being available at LTO 2 prices. The internal drive is around £3240 and the external drive is around £3300.

SAIT holds a small portion of the market with the main competition being Quantum. Quantum has a forthcoming SDLT 1200 format offering 600GB raw capacity and a 40-80MB/s transfer speed. It may arrive later this year and would enable Quantum to bridge the LTO 3 product. IBM and HP are expected to announce LTO 3 products following Certance’s lead.

Quantum’s view of the situation, according to Mark Eastman, product marketing manager for the storage division, said, “We have anticipated these (LTO) products for some time.” Quantum product pricing has been set accordingly.

LTO 2 half height
Certance is also introducing its CL400H, a half height ‘value’ version of its existing CL400 LTO 2 drive. This is expected to compete with Exabyte’s VXA-2 and Quantum’s DLT VS formats, also Sony’s AIT. I is priced at around £1100 internal and about £1200 external (that’s $1999 and $2199 respectively).

For quick reference:
- VXA-2 holds 80GB and transfers it at 6MB/s.
- AIT 4 holds 200MB uncompressed data and transfers it at 24MB/sec. AIT 3 holds 100MB raw data and its I/O rate is 12MB/s
- VS160 holds 80GB uncompressed data and its I/O rate is 8MB/s.
- LTO 2 holds 200MB data and transfers it at 20MB/s.

Certance’s CL400H has, the company says, 150 percent more performance and capacity than either VXA-2 or Quantum’s VS160.

Exabyte has said in the past that it will release new VXA formats at the same price point as the replaced format. We might expect, then, a release of its forthcoming VXA-3 format, offering 160GB raw capacity and transfer at 12MB/s. However, this will not match the LTO 2 capacity point, although it will, if expectations hold, be less expensive.

Adrian Tovey, Exabyte Europe's northern european sales manager, said, "VXA-3 will launch in spring 2005 as an incremental addition to the VXA product line. It will be available alongside VXA-2 and VXA-1. VXA-3 will double the capacity and speed of data transfer compared with VXA-2, and will be priced competitively in line with market conditions at the time."

Quantum’s response might include announcing its VS320, offering 160GB raw data capacity and a 16MB/s transfer rate. This holds less than LTO 2 and transfers data less fast. An option would be to price it underneath the Certance half height drive.

Eastman said, referring to Quantum’s anticipation of the LTO products, “The VS160 is priced around $1300.” That is $699 less than the Certance internal CL400H product.

As for the VS320 he said; “The next-generation VS320 is targeted for the second half of 2005. It will have WORM capability.”

Malone said, “The (Certance LTO 3) WORM tape is different from the standard tape. Our (forthcoming drive) will recognise a WORM tape and won’t rewrite it. Expect a firmware upgrade next year to provide this.”

Quantum’s Eastman said that Quantum, “is focussing on the WORM market.” Further; “We’re seeing LTO play catch up here. The (earlier) LTO 3 announcements missed out WORM. Now it’s being announced.”

Quantum will continue to expand its WORM capabilities. Malone commented that, “Quantum’s WORM is purely software-based. It could easily be over-written.”

Eastman rebutted this assertion; “We have a series of checks and balances in the system, the main one being the DLTIce key. Any detection of this by the (drive) firmware won’t allow the cartridge to be over-written.” There are other checks too.