World’s First: DAT320

Showed by Tandberg but Sony-Made

At SNW in Frankfurt, Germany, Tandberg Data exhibited the first DAT320, being the next generation of tape drive with a native capacity of 160GB and transfer rate at 12MB/s. It will be available from November 16, 2009, at $899 – to be compared to $749 for current Tandberg DAT160 -, and approximately $40 for the media.

That’s the seventh generation of DAT with twice the capacity and 2.4 times the transfer rate of preceding DAT160. The first DDS/DAT unit was launched in 1989 by the HP/Sony tandem in competition with German start-up Gigatape with its own Data DAT format, both of them based on audio 4mm tapes.

It’s rare to see a distributor like Tandberg being the first to show a new product. It’s generally the manufacturer itself. Here it’s Sony but the new device was not on its booth at SNW.

More precisely, HP is at the origin of DAT160, a completely new format compared to the former generation as it used 8mm – and not 4mm – tape cartridges. In UK, HP’s engineers developed a new mechanism and the company was manufacturing the units, resold also by Quantum. For DAT 72 and DAT160, Sony decided not to participate, preferring to focus on its AIT technology, only providing the helical scan head and, of course, the media.

This time, it’s different and more complicated. The new devices will be totally manufactured by Sony in Japan. First units appear in this country last August and will ship in Europe few days. HP and Tandberg will sell them – but not Sony. According to chairman and CEO Rick Belluzzo, Quantum has decided to quit the low-end tape market and will not handle the DAT320 – its DAT160 came from HP -. We are waiting to see if IBM, engaged in DAT since many years, will resell the new drive. Dell continues to offer 4mm DAT72 (36GB) but not the most recent 8mm ones.

The increase capacity of DAT320 is mainly the result of the replacement of Metal Particle (MP) by Sony’s Advanced Metal Evaporated (AME) that was already used for the latest version of Exabyte Mammoth, VXA and Sony’s AIT, all of them with 8mm tapes. The length of the tape remains the same: 150 meters. TDK will also probably be one of the second sources for the DAT320 cartridges.

The DAT 320 will be read and write compatible with DAT 160, but not at all with the former generations. It supports WORM media, compression, now encryption, USB or SAS interface, with a lower power consumption than the preceding models (6.1W in operation vs. 10.3W). The access time to the data is the same, 50s, but the average load/unload time is a little longer (45s vs. 35s) and strangely, the rewind time much longer (120s vs. 92s).

Normally, a eighth  – and last – generation of DDS/DAT is supposed to arrive in two years at 300GB, more than 16MB/s, and compatible with the two former ones.

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Dec 13, 2009 by