Tape library sales and revenue dipped in 2006 after two years of 10% plus growth, according to Freeman Reports' research.
Compared to 2005, tape library revenue dipped 15.6% to $1.81bn (£900m), and units sold declined by 4.5% to 57,668. Tape library revenue growth was 13.5% in 2004 and 10.4% in 2005. The declines in 2006 were not spread evenly across all formats. While LTO showed a slight rise in units shipped of 4%, DLT, helical scan and 8mm formats all had falls in shipped units. LTO did actually declined in revenue to $1.04bn (£520m) from $1.12bn (£561m).
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 showed a 26.7% share.
Sun, last year's primary supplier (in the form of StorageTek) slumped to third rank with a 26.2% share in 2006, down from an impressive 41% in 2005. Clearly StorageTek tape automation sales have not been holding up. In fourth place was troubled Overland Storage with a 6.8% share, down 0.8% year-on-year, with HP in fifth place at 5.3%. This represents an impressive rise from its 2005 share of 1.7%.
The research writers suggest that data protection using disk has become less expensive and may be taking sales away from tape. It speculates though, that tiered storage means cheap serial ATA drive arrays could be housing old but still accessed data that would have once gone to tape because there was no alternative. Now there is.
It does not mean that tape libraries are facing an era of decline. They are not; the tape market is forecast to rise, with demand for tape libraries rising from a low point of $1.77bn (£891m) in 2007 to $2.15bn (£1.08bn) by 2012. This will be driven by unit shipments of 60,438 units in 2007 rising to 80,707 units in 2012.
That at least gives Sun some scope for recovering its lost tape library sales. If it does not then, if its own steep decline continues, it may meet growing HP on the way up.
Freeman Reports specialises in researching the tape market and has been issuing annual reports on it for several years.
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