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Tape lives: LTO-6 rolls out – with more than TWICE the capacity

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Licensing specs for the sixth generation of LTO tapes should be ready in August, and make LTO-6 suitable for exabyte-level cloud archive needs.

LTO is the Linear Tape Open organisation and there are three technology provider companies: HP, IBM and Quantum, with HP and IBM in the driver's seat. The LTO format has been effectively the sole survivor from the assault on tape backup by disk-based backup systems which sparked format consolidation in the tape biz, and we saw the death of formats like DLT, Mammoth, VXA, AIT and many more, leaving LTO as the sole mainstream open systems server tape format.

HP still has DAT at the low-end but it is under assault by removable disk-based backup and has no effective archiving role. That is now LTO's domain and it faces no competition except in high-end and mainframe tape tape libraries from proprietary IBM and Oracle/Sun formats.

The current format generation is LTO-5, which stores 1.5TB of raw data, transferring it at 140MB/sec. Assuming 2:1 compression the numbers are 3TB and 280MB/sec. LTO-6 is expected to have a 6.25TB compressed capacity and a transfer rate of 400MB/sec for compressed data. This assumes a 2.5:1 compression ratio with a larger compression buffer in LTO-6 drives than LTO-5 ones. Effectively the capacity doubles plus a little extra while the transfer rate increases 43 per cent; it will take longer to fill or read an LTO-6 tape than it would with a LTO-5 tape.

With tape rapidly becoming a viable archive storage medium for cloud service providers facing data archives heading to multiple exabytes in size – with frightening costs if implemented using disk media – the future for LTO looks bright. We might even see converged tape and disk hardware in libraries with software like Quantum's StorNext presenting the combined disk and tape storage pools as a single virtual pool of data.

LTO has amassed some impressive stats during its 12-year existence; 80,000 plus PB of data stored, 4 million plus drives shipped, and almost 200 million LTO cartridges shipped. LTO-6 will inherit the LTFS drag-and-drop filesystem capability introduced with LTO-5, and drives will continue featuring encryption and Write-Once-Read-many (WORM) capabilities.

LTFS has made a big difference to tape's usability for customers. For example, BAMM.TV Director of Operations, Jamie Morganstern said: “Today, BAMM.TV producers and editors can search for files stored on LTO tapes as if it were NAS storage and easily pull projects and footage that we worked on more than a year ago.”

Storage and media manufacturers interested in licensing LTO formats may obtain information by contacting the LTO Program through www.ultrium.com. ®

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