Tape media sales fell 8% in 2020 – Blocks and Files


Tape media sales fell last year, but hyperscalers are buying more tape libraries this year, which should drive tape media sales higher as night follows day.

A report from the LTO Program Technology Provider (TPC) companies – Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM Corporation and Quantum – indicates that 105,198 petabytes of total (compressed) tape capacity were shipped in 2020. The report states that this was ” slightly lower than 2019 (a record year)” and that “for context, real GDP fell at a growth rate of -5% over the same period”.

Eric Bassier, Senior Director, Quantum, released a statement: “After record capacity shipped in 2019, we were optimistic for 2020 – but global shutdowns and other factors beyond our collective control resulted in lower performance. We We are optimistic about a return to the previous capacity growth trend in 2021.”

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

However, the report does not actually reveal that tape media sales fell 7.8% from the 2019 total of 114,079PB – more than the 5% drop in GDP – as the 114 figure reveals. 079 PB in 2019.

TPC published a table showing the 2019 count, but did not publish one showing the 2020 count. We took the table published by TPC for shipments through 2019 and added a column for 2020 plus some annotations :

Additions of Blocks and Files to LTO Tape Suppliers Company 2020 Flowchart

As you can see, the 2021 number was lower than the total tape media sales figures of 2019 and 2017 – perhaps a bit more than a “slight drop”.

Quantum is reporting an increase in tape library system sales to hyperscalers, so tape media sales should begin to pick up this year and next. Even so, the total number of media ships in 2021 may not match the 2019 record.


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