Quantum, Overland get LTO-5 tape backup ball rolling
LTO-5 tape has arrived, bringing larger
capacity and faster transfer rates for organizations relying on tape for their
backups. Quantum Corp. today began offering general availability of LTO-5 tape
autoloaders, drives and media, and launched an early customer adoption program
of LTO-5 for its Scalar tape libraries. Last week, Overland Storage rolled out
an E Series of its NEO tape libraries with LTO-5.
Other vendors are expected to follow soon with
LTO-5 tape products, according to the LTO Program roadmap calling for the launch
of LTO-5 early this year.
LTO-5 cartridges have twice the capacity of
LTO-4 tape, holding 1.5 TB native and 3 TB compressed data. The data transfer
rate increases from 120 MBps to 140 MBps native, and 240 MBps to 280 MBps
compressed. LTO-5 carries over LTO-4 features such as hardware encryption and
adds a partitioning functionality that lets applications index data on tape to
make it easier to access.
"Partitioning alleviates that ability for
search and discovery, and ultimately restore by segmenting out the actual tape
cartridge and tape media so you don't have to spool through the entire tape
cartridge," IDC analyst Robert Amatruda said. "They're giving it the ability to
have a recall restore much more efficiently."
Bruce Master, senior program manager for IBM Corp. – one of the developers of
LTO technology – agrees that partitioning is a key feature for LTO-5. "We feel
this will be one of the biggest features users will be interested in," said
Master. "Partitioning allows the user to see what's on the tape, allowing for
faster searches. It also enhances processing."
LTO-5 has backwards compatible read-and-write
capabilities with LTO-4 to make for smooth upgrades. However, LTO-5 only has
read capabilities with LTO-3, which could make it a bit trickier to upgrade from
older tape systems.
"In some instances, [an upgrade] can be a
problem," Amatruda said. "But it's not really a show-stopper. If it's
economically beneficial for [organizations] to upgrade to a higher density
removable media, they'll likely do it."
LTO-5 tape upgrade won't happen immediately
Even with the advantages, implementation of
LTO-5 tape libraries will likely be gradual. While upgrading from LTO-4 should
be easy, it might be unnecessary for now for customers who recently installed an
LTO-4 library. And LTO-5 tape probably isn't enough to sway organizations using
disk data backup to switch to tape backup.
"For customers who use tape, if they're meeting
their capacity requirements with their current generation, LTO-5 would not
necessarily be a must-have initially," Amatruda said. "For the people who do not
use tape, such as smaller companies who are using online data backup or
Software-as-a-Service [SaaS] or cloud backup, those folks have turned away from
tape quite some time ago."
Those who are sticking with tape see LTO-5 as
welcome news, even if they don't plan on upgrading immediately.
Dick Cosby, system administrator at Electronic
Data Processing Services (EDPS) in Richmond, VA has been using LTO tape
technology since it was first released, and is now looking to upgrade to LTO-5.
He originally chose to implement LTO technology into his tape storage system
because of its reliability, performance, ease of use, minimal support of staff
training required and the fact that it's virtualized.
"Essentially, LTO technology is hands-free,"
Cosby said. "We tell it what to do, and between the software and the libraries,
it just operates with virtually no manual intervention. We eject cartridges to
take them offsite and load them back, but other than that, the libraries do it
Other tape customers are in less of a hurry,
although they may like knowing LTO systems are advancing. Keith Steger, CFO of
electrical supplies distributor Eck Supply Co., said his company uses LTO-2
technology, and is looking to upgrade to LTO-4 for increased speed and capacity.
He's following the LTO roadmap because he may need higher capacities down the
"[LTO technology] has been ahead of where we
need to be right now, but the whole product line goes exactly forward on the
path to where we need to advance," said Steger. "It's staying ahead of us, no
doubt, but we like that because by the time we get there, it will have been
tried and proven."
LTO-6 and beyond?
The LTO Ultrium group already has LTO-6 on its roadmap, with 6.4 TB capacity and
540 MBps transfer rates. And, Amatruda said continued data growth will likely
mean future development for LTO technology.
"I would suspect there has to be another
generation beyond LTO-6," he said. "What happens on the development roadmap is
that they'll define one generation from a specification standpoint, and if they
need to make enhancements or more breakthroughs, they will start to understand
what those changes or innovations need to be. Once they get those ironed out,
they'll start to work on another generation."
Organizations using tape need to know the
technology is sound.
"It's critical and essential," said Steger.
"You can't sleep at night if you don't have proper tape backup."