HP has announced three new tape products in the face of a declining tape market. The LTO-4 product is for enterprises, while small and medium business (SMB) is offered the DAT 160 format. HP has also announced a bladed tape system.

The LTO-4 product has 800GB raw capacity, 1.6TB compressed and is two months behind Dell's LTO-4 announcement

The DAT 160 device has an 80GB raw capacity, 160GB compressed, which is twice as much as the preceding DAT 72 format and it is about twice as fast as well.

The bladed tape is the LTO-2-based Ultrium 448c Tape Blade for backing up c-Class blade servers and the SB40c storage blade. LTO-2 has a quarter of the capacity of LTO-4 and is much slower. Its capacity is said to be matched to the boot disk on a server blade. The 448c is a direct-connect device and ships with backup software, Data Protector Express Single Server Edition, making it a tape blade appliance. Other blade servers with an Ethernet connection to the tape blade's host can backup their data to it.

It provides a One Button Disaster Recovery feature. Customers can automatically save the latest server configuration every time they make a standard full backup set. Recovering a failed server blade entails loading the right tape and pushing one button.

HP wants to want to meet customer needs for both disk and tape-based backup and is not wedded to tape. In February it launched a disk-to-disk backup product, the StorageWorks D2D Backup System. At the time Bob Wilson, Nearline storage VP for HP's StorageWorks division, said it: "virtually eliminates the main causes of failed backups and slow restores to help protect our customers' most valuable asset--their data. We designed it with the SMB in mind to deliver the most simplicity, reliability and affordability in one intuitive, integrated package.”

However it does seem odd that in a world moving to 24x7, light-out data centres full of blade systems it is necessary for an admin person to go into the data centre and manually load and unload tape cartridges from the tape blade. Intuitively this seems more like an SMB level system than an enterprise-class blade server data protection system.

In each of the three past quarters HP CEO Mark Hurd has cited faster than anticipated declines in tape market revenues as part of the reason for disappointing StorageWorks results. It has been supposed that a move to disk-based backup away from tape is the reason for this. HP has announced two completely new tape product families and a bladed tape system despite this decline.

HP is a vast company and about to reach the $100 billion a year revenue level. In a declining tape market it thinks it can still make money by focusing on its own DAT SMB customer base and taking advantage of LTO's demonstrable ability to take enterprise market share away from other formats, such as Quantum's DLT S and V. The LTO format has been steadily gaining customers and has become the most popular enterprise tape format for Windows and UNIX servers. Although IBM and Dell have already launched their own LTO4 products HP will be hoping that the rising LTO tide will lift all LTO boats, its own included.