By Dr. Marc M. Batschkus

Recently, the specifications for the upcoming LTO tape version have been published.

Time to have a closer look and also check on the overall benefits and features of LTO.

LTO tape was created to combine the strong features of some predecessor tape technologies, avoid the weaknesses and create a standard with multiple vendors.

Multiple technology layers provide data protection and security:

  • Read after write: the read head immediately controls each file that is written on the tape. If not identical with the file sent, it is re-written until successful.
  • Error correction: if a spot on the tape becomes unreadable (drop out), data is automatically re-constructed by the rear correction 
  • Automatic speed adjustment: If the data stream delivered is below the maximum speed the tape drive can handle (e.g. 360MB/s with LTO-8), the drive reduces speed to avoid stop-and-go (the so called shoe shining) and protect the drive mechanism
  • Breaks and lift mechanism: when re-winding or fast forwarding the tape to the beginning or end of the tape, a special mechanism lifts it up and reduces the speed in a way that the tape is protected in the best way.

Features of LTO-9

With the announcement of LTO-9, the speed and capacity of LTO increase again. The speed of 400MB/s native is impressive and allows storing even the ingest file sets in a reasonable amount of time. The capacity grows with LTO-9 to an also impressive 18TB per cartridge.

Feature comparison of LTO generations with the announced LTO-9:

Capacity (native)2,5TB6TB12TB18TB
Read/Write Speed160MB/s300MB/s360MB/s400MB/s
Compatibility Read/WriteR 4,5,6
W 5,6
R 5,6,7
W 6,7
R 7,8
W 7,8
R 8,9
W 8,9
Tape Price/TB ca.10€/USD10€/USD12€/USD(tba)
Price Single Drive ca.2000€/USD2500€/USD3800€/USD(tba)

Learn more on how to find the right LTO tape for you in this post:

Useful features of LTO tape for Backup and Archive

All generations of LTO tape share a number of important features to improve Backup and Archive.

Air gap: Since the tape and the drive are physically separated most of the time, there is a physical gap – the air gap in between. No network transferred malware, cyber-attack or manipulation can affect a tape that is not in the drive. Even for tapes in the drive, there have been no publicised threats so far.

Offsite storage: tapes can easily be taken offsite to separate them from the primary office, setup or data center. This provides protection against any local incidents.

Easy to scale: the total capacity of a tape installation scales extremely easily by just adding more tapes. Since this avoids any physical change in the setup, network connection etc. it is the easiest way to increase capacity for a given setup compared to other storage media. It is also the cheapest way to scale storage and much cheaper to scale RAID, SAN or NAS storage.

Density: with a capacity of up to 18 TB per cartridge LTO tape has a very high density and low space requirements. This is especially important if large data sets need to be archived and kept for many years.

Long shelf life: the track record and specified shelf life for LTO tape is impressive. 30 years of readability are unique among professional media and this has been proven many times over the year by the IBM labs and customers alike.

At 10EUR/USD, LTO Tape provides the lowest cost per TB.

Speed: with up to 360MB/s LTO-8 tape is the fastest LTO tape so far. To increase the throughput even further, multiple drives can be parallelized as with P5 Backup and P5 Archive to almost multiply the throughput.

Accessibility: LTO tape can now be used even on the desktop, in a 19” rack and in a data center. The desktop drives with Thunderbolt make it ideal for media production, since the setup can be transported easily. Any Mac and PC with Thunderbolt can become an Archive workstation.

Open exchange format: With LTO tape formatted as LTFS, there is an open standard to transfer large amounts of data between companies. Multiple vendors offer free drivers to do that. Archiware P5 Archive writes and reads LTFS tapes and offers LTFS as archive format (beginning with version 6.1).

Proven track record: storage tape has ben developed in the IBM labs since the 1950s and has had many opportunities to demonstrate its longevity. Tape is more robust than hard drives and optical media. 

Lowest cost per TB: LTO tape has an extremely low cost per TB of about 10EUR/USD per TB. Additionally, there are massive savings compared to disk storage because the power consumption of tape drives and libraries is very low and they work without cooling. Compared to cloud storage, the initial investment in hard- and software pays off soon, since there are no monthly payments. Especially for rarely accessed files, this is a big benefit and cost saving.

Archive workstation with LTO desktop drive.

Archiware P5 Archive and P5 Backup work with LTO drives and libraries of all vendors. Both offer tape parallelisation for maximum throughput and tape cloning for maximum security.

Learn more on how to plan and build an archive in this post:

See how P5 Backup and P5 Archive help you to secure your data:

As soon as we have real world figures from testing LTO-9, we will post the results.

What is LTO-9? What are the advantages of LTO tape in 2021?
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