Live Dangerously: AIT EOL’d

Buried on Sony’s web site is the final death knell for the AIT data tape format. The declaration, dated 10-12-09, specifies the format’s End of Life (EOL) for the close of March 2010. Never a rousing success, Sony has decided to pull the plug on AIT drive sales “…after careful review and consideration.” According to the second and probably final notice, “AIT media sales will continue beyond March 2010 with no immediate plan of discontinuation.”

AIT is one of several helical scan formats whose fundamental architecture can be traced to the 8mm consumer video which debuted in the mid–80s. First introduced in 1996 and evolving through five generations, AIT competed with linear standards DLT, VXA and LTO, as well as DAT/DDS and Mammoth, the latter two sharing helical scan technology.

Sony AIT-5 tape drive

Sony AIT-5 tape drive

Looking strictly at the numbers, AIT-5 is a competitive format. With an uncompressed capacity of 400 GB and maximum sustained native transfer rate of over 86 GB/hour, it could hold its own against LTO-3 in both capacity and raw throughput. As with other Sony–championed data formats, most recently DAT160/320, the fourth generation unfortunately lacked backward compatibility which limited its attraction for sites with large collections of archival tapes. An additional drawback is that Sony’s AIT-5 drives are only available with a SCSI Ultra160 interface whereas newer drive types are moving to serial attach schemes.

Largely a victim of Sony’s lack of marketing focus and “Not Invented Here” attitude, AIT has been supplanted by LTO-4 and DLT-S4. If you visit the Sony web page containing the EOL link, you’re presented with the ironic marketing tag line, “Live dangerously.” For IT pros who embraced the AIT format, then that’s exactly what they’ll be doing going forward.

One Response to “Live Dangerously: AIT EOL’d”


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