Fujifilm will raise the prices of some older-generation LTO cartridges as a result of rising costs of materials and transportation.
The 5% increase in the price of Fujifilm-manufactured LTO-6, LTO-7 and LTO-8 cartridges takes effect Oct. 1. The newest generation, LTO-9, which launched September 2021, will not increase in cost at that time.
Fujifilm is one of two manufacturers of LTO cartridges. The other, Sony, declined to comment on its LTO prices. A Sony spokesperson noted that it is typical for the vendor not to speak in detail about its LTO products.
Randy Kerns, senior strategist and analyst at Evaluator Group, called the increase in LTO tape prices "fairly nominal" and said it falls in line with other rising rates.
"An increase in today's world seems obvious," Kerns said. "Everybody has additional costs, primarily around transportation, and they're being passed on."
Unspooling the details on the cost increase
The price jump in LTO-8 works out to about $3, based on an average internet price in June of $62.48 per cartridge, said Rich Gadomski, head of tape evangelism at Fujifilm. LTO-8, which launched in late 2017, provides 30 terabytes of compressed storage capacity and 12 TB of native capacity per cartridge.
LTO-7 had an average internet price of $43.81 in June, which will translate into an increase of $2.19 per cartridge in October, Gadomski said. Launched in late 2015, LTO-7 offers 15 TB of compressed capacity and 6 TB of native capacity.
Randy KernsSenior strategist and analyst, Evaluator Group
The cost of energy and fuel are major drivers in the LTO tape price increases.
"The inflation in the energy sector definitely is impacting our cost of transportation and raw materials, because a lot of our raw materials are ultimately petroleum-based," Gadomski said.
Tape advocates often tout its low cost compared to other storage media such as disk and flash. Gadomski and Kerns said they don't think the price increase will interfere with that selling point.
"Tape continues to have the lowest TCO of any storage medium," Gadomski said. "We need all of these technologies -- on-premises, off-premises, cloud-based, flash, disk, tape, optical, DNA when it comes -- it's just really about getting the right data in the right place at the right time and at the right cost."
While the increase in LTO tape prices doesn't kick in until the fall, Gadomski said Fujifilm is getting the word out now so customers and channel partners can plan long-term for their storage requirements.
Kerns noted that the date of the increase marks the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2022.
"They've given ample notice here so people can put in a buy that coincides with some of their fiscal [plans]," Kerns said.
Fujifilm customers are still using older LTO models. LTO-7 and LTO-8 are the most popular, and it will take several quarters before LTO-9 approaches their volume of unit sales, according to Gadomski.
"There will be a time of still buying the older media, but it will decline," Kerns said. "So I think increasing the prices there makes perfect sense, passing along those costs."
LTO-9 cartridges had an average internet price of $154.27 in June. Fujifilm didn't need to apply the cost increase to LTO-9 because it's new and the vendor built in the necessary pricing structure, Gadomski said.
Fujifilm also applied the 5% price increase to its LTO Universal Cleaning Cartridge that cleans tape drives.
Trends in tape use
While predictions of the death of tape have reverberated throughout the storage industry for years, statistics show that it's still in demand. A record 148 exabytes of compressed LTO tape capacity shipped in 2021, according to the LTO Program's annual media shipment report released in April.
Top uses for tape include active and cold archives as well as air-gapped protection from cyber attacks. Sustainability is another benefit of tape, Gadomski said, as it uses a low amount of energy.
While backups have largely moved to solid state or disk media, public cloud providers use tape for deep archives, Kerns said. Access time can be lengthy, but that tier of storage has a comparatively cheap cost.
"That's where the growth is and that's where the big opportunity is," Kerns said.
LTO is also set for another capacity increase. LTO-10 will offer 90 TB of compressed capacity and 36 TB of native capacity, according to the LTO roadmap.
Gadomski said the release date for LTO-10 is still to be determined. The typical window between LTO releases has been about two to three years.