Tape lives! The tape archive bit bucket is becoming bottomless

SpectraLogic's LTO-8 pre-purchase programme and 190TB+ cartridge forecast

Library vendor SpectraLogic is preparing for upcoming 12TB LTO-8 format tape drives with a pre-purchase programme and a 190-plus TB cartridge on the way.

LTO-8 doubles capacity and increases throughput by 42 per cent over the current LTO-7 format generation. It will support LTFS, WORM and AES 256-bit encryption and has a 1019 bit error rate.

The improvements come from tape media areal density increases and the use of new read/write heads.  LTO-8 drives will utilise tunnelling magnetoresistive (TMR) drive heads, instead of the giant magnetoresistive (GMR) drive heads used in previous LTO tape drive generations.

This latest LTO format lags behind IBM's proprietary TS1155 drive with its 15TB raw capacity. However, LTO-8 storage is cheaper than IBM's, according to Spectra.

Founder and CEO Nathan Thompson issued a quote, saying: "LTO tape is the only data storage technology that has five more generations of double capacity growth in its future. Spectra foresees the availability of LTO-9 at 24TB per tape cartridge in two years; LTO-10 at 48TB in four years; LTO-11 at 96TB in six or seven years; and LTO-12 at 190+TB in eight to nine years."

Thompson doesn't foresee any other archival technology keeping up with this rate and scale of tape capacity increase, and thinks it will be the most cost-effective, long-term data storage medium for many years.

The LTO organisation's website roadmap only extends out to LTO-10. Here is a table showing how LTO tape generational values have evolved:

LTO Formats Raw Capacity (TB) Compressed Capacity Raw Throughput (MB/sec) Compressed Throughput
LTO-4 0.8 1.6 120 240
LTO-5 1.6 3.2 140 280
LTO-6 2.5 6.25 160 400
LTO-7 6 15 300 750
LTO-8 12 32 427 1,180
LTO-9 24 62.5 708 1,770
LTO10 48 120 1,100 2,750

LTOs 4 and 5 used a 2:1 compression ratio. Later generations moved to 2.5:1.

Spectra's pre-purchase programme means its customers get access to LTO-7 drives and media for use until LTO-8 technology becomes available, when they will be priority recipients of LTO-8 drives and media.

LTO-8 drives will be backward compatible with LTO-7 tape media, so users can read/write any LTO-7 media. The LTO-8 drives will ship with Spectra's tape library line, taking the maximum capacity of its largest TFnity ExaScale library to 1.6EB of compressed capacity.


A TFinity ExaScale library using Thompson's envisaged 190TB+ LTO-12 tapes would hold more than 25 exabytes of data; not really a bottomless bit bucket but getting there.

Spectra has a MigrationPass programme for customers with LTO-4, LTO-5 and LTO-6 tape to migrate data to the newest LTO tape technology.

Its LTO-8 tape products are expected to ship later this year, probably before winter. ®

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