Linear Tape-Open (LTO): Past, Present and Future

January 14, 2016 Disaster Recovery Blog, Legacy System Blog Articles

Linear Tape-Open is a product of the combined efforts of Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Quantum. A form of magnetic tape data storage, LTO was originally developed in the 1990s as an open standards alternative to the relatively exclusive, non-compatible proprietary magnetic tape storage that was popular at that time. The LTO Program has only been putting out bigger and better tape drives  for its users since its first appearance a few decades ago, with even more to come.

The Early Years

The first linear tape-open developed in 1998, LTO-1, began as an attempt to provide a simple solution in the increasingly complex world of tape data storage. In the 1980s each available tape data storage technology was markedly different, and with different intended markets. By the 1990s, companies largely used proprietary data storage solutions that did not allow competition between vendors or compatibility for data interchange, resulting in relatively high prices. Hewlett-Packard (HP), IBM and Seagate formed their LTO product in response to this issue, aiming to create a solution with an open format which would allow for a much greater degree of compatibility and usability.

With the development of linear tape-open, users gain multiple sources of product and media thanks to its open format. This provides a strong foundation for data interchange, while open licensing allows other companies to participate in the industry, resulting in competitive prices. This technology was designed to be state-of-the-art by combining the best abilities of multiple technologies, such as linear multi-channel and bi-directional formats, servo technology, data compression, and error correction. Ultimately, it has become a high capacity and high performance product that effectively maintains the integrity of critical data.

In the Present

Currently in its 6th generation, LTO-6, the 7th generation is soon to come. Newer models boast significantly larger storage capacities and transfer rates, all while maintaining proven security features. LTO is scalable for many company sizes, including mid-range systems and complex networks. Since LTO-5, WORM, encryption, and partitioning are all included as integrated features. The current generation is recognized for its large cartridge capacity, remarkable security, high speeds and compatibility, with backwards-compatible read-and-write capabilities. This both eases implementation and validates previous investments in older models.

What the Future Holds

Although their release dates are TBA, it seems that the LTO Program has at least 4 more generations in store for users. The next generation, LTO-7, is planned to more than double current storage capacities, going from 6.25 terabytes (TB) to 15 TB of storage. Transfer rates are predicted to nearly double, from 400 MB/s in LTO-6 to 750 MB/s in LTO-7. Partitioning, WORM and encryption will still be included as integrated features.
Further down the line, LTO-8 is planned to have up to 32 TB of storage capacity and an 1180 MB/s transfer rate. Generation 9 is supposed to top that at 62.5 TB storage capacity and 1770 MB/s transfer rate, while generation 10 is anticipated at an astounding 120 TB storage capacity and 2750 MB/s transfer rate. Each of these generations will continue offering integrated partitioning, encryption and WORM capabilities. It seems that the LTO Program plans to continue out-doing itself, putting out bigger and better tape drives for users with each new generation.

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