Quantum has released a ten-year tape road-map, which extends to 16TB tape cartridges.

It is also re-branding its formats into DLT-S (S for Super or Speed) and DLT-V (for Value meaning capacity). DLT-S is the re-branded SDLT xxx; DLT-V is the re-branded DLT VSxxx. .

SDLT 1200 was a 600GB (1.2TB compressed) cartridge and SDLT 2400 was a 1.2TB one (all capacity figures are native or uncompressed.) DLT-S4 replaces SDLT 1200 and has an increased 800GB capacity with the same 40Mbit/s transfer rate. DLT-S5 replaces SDLT 2400 (1.2TB, 200Mbit/s) with 1.5 to 1.75TB at 100-125Mbit/s.

And new is the DLT-S6 at 3.0 to 3.5TB and 200 to 250Mbit/s, and DLT-S7 at 6 to 8TB and 400 to 500Mbit/s. The DLT-S generations occur at roughtly 18-24 month intervals, meaning approximate launch dates are mid-2005 for DLT-S4, mid-2007 for DLT-S5, mid-2009 for DLT-S6 and mid-2011 for the DLT-S7.

In effect Quantum has made a first and telling strike in the ground for an entire new generation of supertapes, with the first generation roughly defined by the LTO-1 to LTO-4 line. LTO-4 maxes out at 800GB with an 80Mbit/s transfer rate. Its precursor, LTO-3 (400GB, 40Mbit/s) is only just becoming available.

There are few details on Quantum's technology. Its European marketing head, Henrik Hansen, said the actual drive engine has not had its speed increased. Instead the capacity increases will come from media advances and corresponding read/write head technology improvements. He confirmed that Imation and Fuji Film are amongst the media suppliers woking on the new formats. These two are working with the LTO consortium memberrs and StorageTek on their coming new formats in their existing supertape lines as we noted previously.

Value line
Quantum has also upscaled its DLT VSxxx line with the coming DLT VS320 (160GB, 16Mbit/s) replaced by the DLT-V4 at the same spec levels. Then we have the DLT-V5 at 250 to 350GB, 17 to 20Mbit/s, and the DLT-V6 at 500 to 750GB and 25Mbit/s, and the DLT-V7 at 1.0 to 1.5TB and 30 to 35Mbit/s transfer speed.

For reference, Sony's S-AIT format has S-AIT 4 coming in roughly 2008 with 4TB capacity. Quantum is the first of Sony's supertape vendors to go past S-AIT capacity levels.

Two predictions:

  1. All Quantum's competitors (IBM, LTO, Sony, StorageTek) will now refresh their road maps and also achieve a 4+ times increase in projected capacities
  2. If Sony manages to achieve the same increase then S-AIT will reclaim capacity leadership

However, as Hansen said, Sony has achieved very small supertape market pentetration. LTO and SDLT (now DLT-S) are the market leaders. It's what the LTO consortium does that really counts.