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September 15, 2015

Tape Storage Spec Jumps to 15TB

George Leopold

Data storage licensing specifications released this week by a consortium of technology companies would boost tape storage capacity for archival and other long-term storage to as much as 15 terabytes.

The LTO (Linear Tape-Open) Program, which offers different licensing packages and specifications for its open tape format, said Monday (Sept. 14) its latest specification would more than double tape storage capacity up to 15 terabytes per cartridge when compressed. It also specified tape drive transfer rates for large files up to 750 Mb/sec., or more than 2.7 terabytes of data an hour per drive.

The LTO “generation 7” release is also designed to demonstrate the economic viability of long-term data retention and archiving as businesses cope with mountains of big data. “Tape remains a very attractive match for long term storage requirements,” LTO asserted in a statement releasing the new storage spec.

LTO program partners Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Quantum Corp. said the new spec includes a doubling of read/write heads in a new servo format to help achieve higher track density. That approach is said to allow more data to be written to the same amount of tape within the cartridge. Advances in magnetic properties also helped to increase capacity, the partners said.

LTO is positioning the tape storage spec as part of an enterprise tiered storage management plan. The group released a roadmap last year that outlines plans for compressed data storage capacities of 32 terabytes in generation 8, 62.5 terabytes for Gen 9 and 120 terabytes for the 10th generation of the storage spec.

The Gen 7 standard again includes partitioning functionality designed to allow users to present a tape-based file system via a linear tape file system. It also continues support for hardware-based encryption and WORM (write-once, read-many) functionality. LTO said this helps balance performance, capacity, compatibility and costs by supporting a range of secure, portable data storage options for backup and archiving.

The current generation of LTO technology—generation 6—supports tape cartridge storage compressed capacity of up to 6.25 terabytes and tape drive data transfer rates of up to 400 Mb/sec. That works out to more than 1.4 terabytes of storage an hour per drive.

The LTO Ultrium open-tape format was developed and upgraded by HP, IBM and Quantum along with their predecessors as they target storage demand for enterprise-class server storage.

When LTO Gen 10 drives ship–which will likely happen in anywhere from eight to 12 years, considering the 24 to 36 month release cycle–data will be flowing 10 times faster than it does under current LTO Gen 6 gear.

Moreover, proponents of tape storage argue that the rise of big data means “no one is deleting data anymore.”

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