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AIT is Dead
The funeral by Sony is scheduled for March 31, 2010.

Sony Electronics, Inc. will discontinue offering AIT drives and library/automation systems on March 31, 2010. Now the Japanese company manufactures only DAT320 tape drives but continues to offer tape media.

AIT was one of the best tape technology, but with a dreadful marketing. Introduced in 1996, the 3.5-inch drive was based on a 8mm dual reel cartridge and helical scan magnetic head with the idea to compete with Exabyte Mammoth (also using 8mm helical scan) and Quantum DLT (half-inch media and longitudinal recording).

At the end, there was nine generations of drives between AIT-1 (25/3 - all figures here are native, without compression) and the latest AIT-5 (400/24 with MR head), supposed to compete with LTO, if we add several Turbo and extended versions. AIT-6 (800/96) will not appear.

It was not easy for users to follow each step of the roadmap. Furthermore, Sony did a big mistake with AIT-4 - as well as AIT-5 - that was not compatible with AIT-3 as promised, but only with the AIT-3Ex. And finally, OEMs - except Compaq - were reluctant to adopt AIT as there was no second source for the drives. Sony tries to enter in many other storage devices (HDDs, disk-to-tape units, autoloaders, libraries) but always failed, apart from floppy disk and optical disc drives. Around half million AIT drives has been sold in the world.

In 2001, Sony unveils at CeBIT the concept of a formidable tape drive, the helical scan SAIT-1 with an incredible capacity into an half-inch, single-reel cartridge at this time, 500GB, and an excellent 30MB/s transfer rate, and supposed to be followed by SAIT-2 (800/45) for its Petasite libraries, and then by 2TB in 2006 and 4TB in 2008. It was postponed to 2003 and never really reach the market.

AIT milestones
  • 1996: First introduction of 8mm AIT (25/3, then 35/4 for extended version AIT-1 Turbo)
  • 1998: 25,000 AIT-1 shipped
  • 1999: AIT-2 (35/6, then 50/6)
  • 2000: 100,000 AIT-1 or -2 sold
  • 2001: AIT-3 (100/12 then 150/18)
  • 2002: SAIT-1 (500/30 then 800/45)
  • 2004: AIT-4 (200/24)
  • 2006: AIT-5 (400/24)
  • 2009: Sony decides to stop AIT

AIT Tape Media is still available at BackupWorks.com as well as plenty of refurbished/reconditioned AIT Tape Drives.  In addition we are still selling brand new AIT Autoloaders and Tape Libraries by Qualstar Corporation.

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