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No TKO for LTO: Tape format spawns another 2 generations, sports 120TB bigness

The road doesn't end at LTO-8, folks

The LTO consortium has added two more generations to its tape format roadmap, extending it out to LTO-10 and a 120TB compressed capacity.

The roadmap used to finish at LTO-8, and that version of the LTO tape format future was announced in April 2010. Now, four-and-a-half years later, it has been extended again.

LTO Generations

LTO generations with raw and compressed capacities.

The new formats are LTO-9 and LTO-10. Here is a table showing LTO formats 6 - 10 and their raw and compressed capacities and data transfer speeds:

LTO Generations

Compression is reckoned to be 2.5:1. Basically raw capacity is doubling every generation with compressed capacity increasing 2.5 times per generation. Transfer speeds are increasing at less than 2X per generation.

LTO-6 is the current generation. As ever with LTO, “each new generation will include read-and-write backwards compatibility with the prior generation as well as read compatibility with cartridges from two generations prior.”

We might assume each generation leasts for 2.5 years before the next one is introduced.

An extension to 120TB capacity with a transfer speed reaching 2.75GB/sec is strong evidence that the three LTO consortium members - HP IBM and Quantum - see a continuing healthy demand for tape and its role as an archival data medium. Their release quotes Joel Tax from the Santa Clara Research Group: “With a road map showing four more generations beyond the current one, the LTO Program has shown commitment to innovation and support for the format.”

The two competing proprietary formats are from IBM and Oracle. IBM has demonstrated a 154TB tape technology while Oracle has an 8.5TB raw capacity tape - making LTO-6’s 2.5TB look pretty poor.

Sony, which used to a be a force to be reckoned with in the backup and archive tape market with its AIR and Super AIT formats, has developed a 185TB tape technology.

The role of tape as the lowest-cost archive medium should continue with these capacity increases. Tape users can be confident that all three consortium members see a need for tape products meeting these format requirements out to 2020. ®

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