Tape library sales fall from previous years' rate

Declining disk prices may be taking sales away from tape

Tape library sales and revenue dipped in 2006 after two years of double digit growth, according to research by Freeman Reports, which specialises in researching the tape market.

Compared with 2005, tape library revenue dipped 15.6% to US$1.81 billion (NZ$2.45 billion), and units sold declined by 4.5% to 57,668. In contrast, tape library revenue grew by 13.5% in 2004 and by 10.4% in 2005. The declines in 2006 were not spread evenly across all formats of the technology. While LTO showed a slight rise in units shipped of 4%, DLT, helical scan (AIT and others) and 8mm formats all had falls in shipped units.

IBM was the number one supplier with a 29% market share, up from 23.3% in 2005. The number two supplier was Quantum, with help from its ADIC acquisition. It had a 26.7% share.

Sun, 2005’s primary supplier (in the form of StorageTek) slumped to third place with a 26.2%share, down from 41%. In fourth place was Overland Storage with a 6.8%, down 0.8% year-on-year, and HP was in fifth place at 5.3%, an impressive rise from its 2005 share of 1.7%.

The research suggests that data protection using disk has become less expensive and may be taking sales away from tape.

Freeman Reports also speculates that tiered storage means cheap serial ATA (SATA) drive arrays could be housing old but still accessed data that would have once gone to tape because there was no alternative.

The results don’t mean that tape libraries are facing an era of decline, however.

They are not. The tape market is expected to rise, with demand for tape libraries rising from a low point of US$1.77 billion in 2007 to US$2.15 billion by 2012. This will be driven by unit shipments of 60,438 units in 2007, rising to 80,707 units in 2012, according to Freeman’s projections.

That at least gives Sun some scope for recovering its lost tape library sales.

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