Tape media sales dropped eight per cent in 2020

Tape media sales dropped last year — but the hyperscalers are buying more tape libraries this year, which should lead to a tape media sales rise as night follows day.

A report by the The LTO Program Technology Provider Companies (TPCs) — Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM Corporation and Quantum — indicates that 105,198 petabytes of total tape capacity (compressed) shipped in 2020. The report says this was “slightly short of 2019 (a record year)” and that “for context, real GDP fell to a -5 per cent growth rate during the same time period”.

Eric Bassier, Senior Director, Quantum, issued a statement: “Coming off record capacity shipped in 2019, we were optimistic for 2020 — but global shutdowns and other factors outside of our collective control led to a reduced performance. We’re optimistic that there will be a return to the prior capacity growth trend in 2021.” 

He opined that “Despite the unexpected headwinds for many segments of the technology industry produced by the pandemic, overall LTO tape capacity shipped in 2020 was strong in context.”

The report does not actually reveal though, that tape media sales fell 7.8 per cent from the 2019 total of 114,079PB — more than the five per cent GDP drop — as a look at the 114,079PB 2019 number reveals. 

The TPCs issued a chart showing the 2019 number, but have not issued one showing the 2020 number. We took the TPC-issued chart for shipments to 2019 and added a column for 2020 plus a few annotations:

Blocks & Files additions to 2020 LTO Tape Provider Company chart

As you can see, the 2021 number was below both the 2019 and 2017 total tape media sales numbers — possibly a little bit more than a “slight drop”.

Quantum is reporting increased tape library system sales to hyperscalers, so tape media sales should start picking up this year and into next year. Even so, the 2021 total media ship number may not equal the 2019 record.