At 400GB, it is a third larger than the super tape market leader, LTO3, and double the capacity of the previous AIT-4 format.

The tape market is roughly divided into three: mainframe tapes, mid-range or super tapes – such as LTO and DLT, and entry-level tape such as DAT and Travan. Sony has super AIT (SAIT) which is a very high capacity mid-range tape and advanced intelligent tape (AIT) for both entry-level and low-end, mid-range applications.

Will Trotman, Sony Europe senior product manager for tape products, said: "AIT now offers the market's widest range of native data capacities in a single format, from 20GB all the way up to 400GB, and there is still more to come." SAIT-2 is already at the 1TB level.

AIT and SAIT are helical formats with data tracks laid out obliquely across the tape. This means that more data can be stored in less space than tapes with linear tracks extending the length of the drive, such as LTO and DLT. Consequently AIT tape cartridges are smaller than LTO or DLT tape cartridges. This means that AIT tape libraries and autoloaders can hold much more data in the same physical space than other formats.

AIT-5 drives transfer data at 24Mbit/s and fit in a half-height form factor. They will read and write the two preceding AIT generations and come in both 3.5 inch and 5.25 inch configurations for OEMs and system builders. Sony will also sell AIT-5 StorStation branded product which include Symantec backup software. These come in both external-attach and internal-fit models.

Sony is also introducing AIT-5 media in read/write and Worm (write once; read many) versions. Estimated StorStation AIT-5 drive pricing starts at €2,250 (£1,535 or US$2,862).