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History (1998): Tape Drives Grew in Revenue, Declined in Units

At $4.3 billion and 4.8 million, respectively

Magnetic tape storage will show continued revenue growth in 1998. Unit shipments, however, will ease modestly as the industry transitions from the lower-cost desktop tape drives, towards the higher-cost devices targeted for the mid-range environments.

According to the 1998 Tape Drive Head/Media Market and Technology Report (160 pages, $775) from Peripheral Research Cop., tape drive unit demand is estimated to decline modestly to 4.8 million drives in 1998, down from 5.2 million in 1997, while revenues should continue to grow to $4.3 billion in 1998, up from $4.2 billion in 1997.

As for components, 1998 tape head shipments will surpass 5.2 million, as media shipments push 102 million.

In retrospect, 1997 was the year of the DLT. As sole supplier of the DLT tape drives, Quantum experienced demand that greatly exceeded supply of its newest drive, the DLT 7000, as it ramped to vo1ume. Allocation of the units continued until 4Q97. Total 1997 DLT drive unit shipments were 361,000, more than doubling the 1996 figure of 157,000.

Over the past couple years, the industry has gone through many changes. Most notable is the growth in the mid-range sector. Several new tape formats were introduced in 1997 and early 1998 – DDS-3 (4mm DAT), AIT (8mm helical), MLRI and MLR3 (QIC DC), NCTP (half-inch cartridge), DLT 7000 (half-inch serpentine), M2488 (half-inch cartridge), 3570 (half-inch cartridge), DST (19mm helical) and Travan NS (QIC-Wide). Most of these are proprietary technologies, a clear identifier of the segmentation of tape technologies.

More announcements are expected through 1998, including the StorageTek Eagle and the Seagate/lBM/HP consortium drives.

Overall tape-revenue trends are up in spite of an expected slowdown in the low-end markets that began in early 1997. Mid-range tape products that should show robust growth for the foreseeable future include Travan NS, 8mm, DLT and newer mid-range drives, as well as the high-end markets such as the 3590, and Eagle.

This article is an abstract of news published on issue 123 on April 1998 from the former paper version of Computer Data Storage Newsletter.