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HP, IBM and Quantum Corp. recently extended the LTO tape product roadmap to include generations 9 and 10. According to the LTO tape vendors, LTO-9 will offer up to 25 TB of native capacity and LTO-10 will offer 48 TB.
Transfer rates are expected to increase at a larger rate than previous generations. LTO-9 and LTO-10 will offer transfer rates of 708 MBps and 1,100 MBps, respectively. The current generation, LTO-6, provides a native transfer rate of 160 MBps, while LTO-7 will offer 315.2 MBps and LTO-8 will offer 472 MBps.
Each of the new generations will include read-and-write backwards compatibility with tapes from the previous generation and read compatibility from the previous two generations. The new generations will also continue to support LTFS, WORM functionality and encryption.
Opinions vary on new LTO generations
When LTO-6 was announced in 2010, W. Curtis Preston noted that he liked that transfer rates were not increasing at such a rapid rate, as they had with previous generations. "My only problem with tape is that it's too fast. When you slow down, you get shoeshining; you wear out your tapes, you wear out your drives, you get backup failures, etc.," he said.
Marc Staimer of Dragon Slayer Consulting said that while that is a valid concern, the LTO tape transfer rate increases in the new road map are the result of higher densities on the tape itself. "The drive head is reading or writing at the same speed but the tape density is greatly increased so that same amount of tape is delivering a lot more sequential data."
Jason Buffington of Enterprise Strategy Group said that while disk is where IT organizations of almost all sizes and topologies should base their data protection strategies, the roadmap should inspire confidence among users for the future of tape technology. "Even if you are looking to go to the cloud for long-term retention of more than [three to four] years, your data may likely still be stored on tape, just not managed by you."
Buffington's colleague at ESG Mark Peters agreed and said, "The roadmap adds certainty as much as capacity. And that's key to people buying into long-term data storage and retention."
"Tape has use cases even beyond long-term retention, archival and data portability -- including some data recovery scenarios," said Buffington. "And as the longevity of LTO continues and the new usage scenarios like mountable cartridges/libraries via LTFS gain awareness, vendors for backup, archive and overall storage management will need to wake up to what modern tape looks like and answer their customers' demands for additional tiers of storage beyond disk."