Sony, HP halt future DDS products

Two of the top three vendors of digital data storage (DDS) tape say they will develop no future lines of the popular data backup product, while the third producer said it has no "current" plans to continue the line.

Sony Electronics Inc.'s Tape Streamer Products Division said this week that it will be replacing the 10-year-old digital audio tape technology (DAT) with its own advanced intelligent tape (AIT) line. Hewlett-Packard Co. announced its departure from future DDS incarnations last year.

Meanwhile, Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Seagate Technologies Inc. said this week that it has no plans to come out with the next version, a DDS-5 product line.

"We are in the process of doing our due diligence," said Bob Hawkins, director of product line management for Travan/DDS at Seagate. "Today, internally, I don't have a committed program."

Sony product manager Satpreet Singh said that while the company had seen an increase in DDS sales for the four years prior to 2000, it took a 15% to 20% dive last year. Singh added that the DDS technology had almost reached an end and didn't have enough capacity to lure Sony into producing the next version.

The latest incarnation of the DAT tape technology is the DDS-4, with 40GB of compressed capacity and speeds up to 4.8M bit/sec.

Robert Amatruda, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said DDS is the most pervasive tape drive technology in the marketplace and, although sales are slowing, "it still has life left in it."

"You don't end them and have users jump onto something else," he said. "It takes a long time to transition users away from that technology."

Park Ridge, N.J.-based Sony Electronics, which has been shipping its enhanced AIT-1 drives since January, said it increased the performance of the drive speed from 3M bit/sec. to 4M bit/sec. and dropped its list price by $100 to $1,395 to appeal to its lower-end customers.

The AIT-1 technology will offer up to 100GB per cartridge, with AIT-3 starting in the third quarter of this year. The technology will provide 800GB per cartridge before the end of the decade, Sony said.

While it's stopping development of future DDS products, Sony said it remains committed to supporting the almost 8 million drives it has sold during the past decade. Sony said it expects to sell 80,000 AIT-1 drives annually.

In August, HP announced that it also wouldn't produce any future DDS-5 products, in favor of a low-end version of digital-linear tape (DLT) technology.

Dave Robertson, product manager for network storage at HP North America, said a DDS-5 product would have the same 80GB capacity as the DLT-1 that's being offered in its place, but the DLT technology is newer and more expandable.

HP is offering its customers a trade-in program to upgrade older functioning DDS drives for the new DLT drives.

To support the transition from DDS to AIT, Sony-branded AIT drives are shipping with Simi Valley, Calif.-based NovaStor Corp.'s TapeCopy software, which will upgrade existing DDS backup tapes to the AIT drive format. Like HP, Sony also has a trade-in program.

Related stories:

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon