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The LTO Program Release Final Specifications for upcoming Generation 9. LTO-9

Today, the LTO Program Technology Provider Companies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM and Quantum, announced the specifications of LTO Ultrium format generation 9, which are now available for licensing.

 The new LTO generation 9 specifications are designed to increase tape cartridge capacity from the previous generation, with capacities of up to 45TB per cartridge when compressed. LTO-9 specifications include previously introduced features, such as multi-layer security support via hardware-based encryption, WORM (Write-Once, Read-Many) functionality and support for Linear Tape File System (LTFS). The new LTO generation 9 specifications include full backward read and write compatibility with LTO generation 8 cartridges.

These features help LTO tape maintain its unique position of a powerful, scalable, and adaptable open tape storage format that can provide more confidence for safe and secured offline storage, particularly in helping to prevent the impact of increasing cyberattacks. Offline storage – which creates an inherent “air-gap” that protects data from online predators – is essential to help mitigate increasingly sophisticated ransomware and malware threats that may corrupt live, backup, and archive data.

LTO media has doubled in capacity approximately every 2.3 years since the first generation was launched twenty years ago. For LTO generation 9, the LTO Program elected to balance the cost and benefit of technology within the specification offering an 18TB tape cartridge – a 50% increase in capacity from the previous generation – to address the current market for storage space. A new roadmap has been established with the goal to double capacity in each generation moving forward.

“We are very excited at the future for LTO technology, and with increased capacity we are catering to the current and future market requirements for data storage”, said Chris Powers, Vice President of Collaborative Platforms Development and Big Data, at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “We continue to improve the core technology every generation, as tape is one of the most reliable and cost-effective storage solutions to retain data while keeping it safe from ransomware and other cyberattacks”.

In experiments in the IBM Research Zurich Lab, researchers have successfully achieved 330TB of uncompressed data on a palm-sized tape cartridge – a record volume that is equivalent to about 330 million books.

According to the INSIC tape technology roadmap, the potential for tape technology to meet robust capacity predictions over the next decade shows a clear advantage to HDD technologies. Current LTO and enterprise tape drives operate at areal densities that are about two orders of magnitude less than the latest HDD. That means it is possible to continue increasing capacity of tape technology at historical rates for at least the next decade.

For instance, recent 18TB disk product must use 1022 Gb/in2 vs the latest 18TB LTO-9 cartridge that only uses 12Gb/in2. That means that LTO-9 tape can achieve the same capacity with only 1/85th of the areal density than that of same capacity disk. Simply put, tape has much more recoding area compared to disk and will be able to expand further in the years to come, according to INSIC. The combination of tape area and the ability to increase areal densities is the main reason why tape will continue to enjoy the 40%/year capacity growth.

“Given its long history of use and a solid path for future innovation, tape still has a significant role to play in the modern data center and in hybrid topologies,” says Christophe Bertrand, senior analyst at ESG. “Tape’s role is shifting, which further enhances its value. Other than archiving massive data sets for active archives or longer retention at low cost, tape has the ability to create an isolated and “air-gapped” layer. This emerging use case is perfect for keeping data out of reach of cyber-attackers.” The latest generation of LTO tape technology, LTO generation 8, supports tape cartridge storage compressed capacity of up to 30TB.


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