Sony releases next tape system

Sony Electronics Inc. officials are following their aggressive road map for introducing new versions of Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT) systems, recently introducing the fourth generation of its popular tape format that started in 1996.

AIT-4 drives include up to 200G of native storage capacity and 520G compressed with a sustained transfer rate of up to 24 megabytes/sec. They come in a standard 3.5-inch form-factor and 8mm media format.

Sony's AIT drives come with an embedded Remote Memory-In-Cassette nonvolatile chip that contains the tape's system log, search map and user-definable information, which allows the drive to advance to any file on the tape at high speeds.

Later this year, AIT-4 drives are also expected to support Write Once, Read Many (WORM) functionality, a feature that is already provided with previous generation AIT-2 and AIT-3 drives.

The WORM standard is starting to re-emerge as a preferred method for archiving online data as regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the United States and similar mandates in Europe significantly increase potential penalties for companies that don't keep better tabs on their data.

That's expected to produce a surge in fixed-content data and WORM provides a nonmodifiable way of storing such data.

Storage Technology Corp. and IBM Corp. provide WORM tape products for mainframe environments, though Sony's AIT tapes are the only ones available for small business and distributed enterprise systems. Quantum Corp. officials recently announced a WORM technology they calls DLTice, which can be used with Super DLT tape drives.

Sony's AIT-4 drives have twice the capacity of the previous generation AIT-3 format, which came out in 2003. The company has committed to at least two more products in this line of drive formats, culminating in approximately 2008 with AIT-6, which will have an 800G native capacity and transfer speeds of up to 96 megabytes/second.

The AIT-4 drives are expected to start shipping for about $3,500 in October.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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