Sony's decision to discontinue its AIT drives or AIT library/automation systems is indicative of a move away from tape technology.

In a letter to customers, Sony's director of marketing for the storage solutions, media and application solutions division, Tom Murai, said: “As of March 2010, Sony Electronics will no longer be offering AIT drives or AIT library/automation systems. This difficult decision was made after careful review and consideration. “

He claimed that Sony will continue to accept purchase orders for delivery through March 2010 subject to product availability, but due to stronger than expected sales demand, Sony is running out of inventory on some product lines, specifically AIT-2T, AIT-3 and AIT-5 tape drives.

Andy Walsky, VP of EMEA sales and marketing at Overland Storage, a disk and tape library manufacturer, said: “Sony's AIT tape technology has had a good run, but with the market shifting towards more innovative and flexible tape technology such as LTO, its future was always going to be limited.

“The news that AIT will be discontinued, while disappointing for Sony's channel partners and customers, presents an opportunity for those tape vendors that scale from the low-end to the mid-range and beyond to bring their solutions to this sizeable SMB market segment.”

Walsky claimed that tape remains an integral part of the archival strategy for most UK businesses of all sizes, and there is an urgent and growing realisation that tape, which for most archiving applications handily beats disk storage in terms of pure price and performance, will continue to play a central role for many of these firms.

“With most of the UK economy still under financial pressure, many IT decisions will continue to be a driven by cost, ensuring that tape remains an integral part of any firm's data archiving strategy,” said Walsky.