LTO

    LTO Consortium – Roadmap to the Future

    LTO – From Past to Present 

    Linear Tape-Open or more commonly referred to as LTO, is a magnetic tape data storage solution first created in the late 1990s as an open standards substitute to the proprietary magnetic tape formats that were available at the time.  It didn’t take long for LTO tape to rule the super tape market and become the best-selling super tape format year after year. LTO is usually used with small and large computer systems, mainly for backup. The standard form-factor of LTO technology goes by the name Ultrium. The original version of LTO Ultrium was announced at the turn of the century and is capable of storing up to 100 GB of data in a cartridge. Miniscule in today’s standards, this was unheard of at the time. The most recent generation of LTO Ultrium is the eighth generation which was released in 2017. LTO 8 has storage capabilities of up 12 TB (30 TB at 2.5:1 compression rate).

    The LTO Consortium is a group of companies that directs development and manages licensing and certification of the LTO media and mechanism manufacturers. The consortium consists of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, and Quantum. Although there are multiple vendors and tape manufacturers, they all must adhere to the standards defined by the LTO consortium.  

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    LTO Consortium – Roadmap to the Future

    The LTO consortium disclosed a future strategy to further develop the tape technology out to a 12th generation of LTO. This happened almost immediately after the release of the recent LTO-8 specifications and the LTO8 drives from IBM. Presumably sometime in the 2020s, when LTO-12 is readily available, a single tape cartridge should have capabilities of storing approximately half a petabyte of data.

    According to the LTO roadmap, the blueprint calls for doubling the capacity of cartridges with every ensuing generation. This is the same model the group has followed since it distributed the first LTO-1 drives in 2000. However, the compression rate of 2.5:1 is not likely to change in the near future. In fact, the compression rate hasn’t increased since LTO-6 in 2013.

    Learn how you can pre-purchase the latest LTO9 tapes 

    The Principles of How LTO Tape Works

    LTO tape is made up of servo bands which act like guard rails for the read/write head. The bands provide compatibility and adjustment between different tape drives. The read/write head positions between two servo bands that surround the data band. 

    The read-write head writes multiple data tracks at once in a single, end-to-end pass called a wrap. At the end of the tape, the process continues as reverse pass and the head shifts to access the next wrap. This process is done from the edge to the center, known as linear serpentine recording.

    More recent LTO generations have an auto speed mechanism built-in, unlike older LTO tape generations that suffered the stop-and-go of the drive upon the flow of data changes. The built-in auto speed mechanism lowers the streaming speed if the data flow, allowing the drive to continue writing at a constant speed. To ensure that the data just written on the tape is identical to what it should be, a verify-after-write process is used, using a read head that the tape passes after a write head.

    But what about data security? To reach an exceptional level of data security, LTO has several mechanisms in place. 

    Due to several data reliability features including error-correcting code (ECC), LTO tape has an extremely low bit-error-rate that is lower than that of hard disks. With both LTO7 and LTO8 generations, the data reliability has a bit error rate (BER) of 1 x 10-19.  This signifies that the drive and media will have one single bit error in approximately 10 exabytes (EB) of data being stored. In other words, more than 800,000 LTO-8 tapes can be written without error. Even more so, LTO tape allows for an air gap between tapes and the network. Having this physical gap between storage and any malware and attacks provides an unparalleled level of security.

     

    Learn more about air-gap data security here

    TapeChat with Pat

    At DTC, we value great relationships. Luckily for us, we have some of the best industry contacts out there when it comes to tape media storage & backup. Patrick Mayock, a Partner Development Manager at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is one of those individuals. Pat has been with HPE for the last 7 years and prior to that has been in the data backup / storage industry for the last 30 years. Pat is our go to guy at HPE, a true source of support, and overall great colleague. For our TapeChat series Pat was our top choice. Pat’s resume is an extensive one that would impress anyone who see’s it. Pat started his data / media storage journey back in the early 90’s in the bay area. Fast forward to today Pat can be found in the greater Denver area with the great minds over at HPE. Pat knows his stuff so sit back and enjoy this little Q&A we setup for you guys. We hope you enjoy and without further adieu, we welcome you to our series, TapeChat (with Pat)!

    Pat, thank you for taking the time to join us digitally for this online Q&A. We would like to start off by stating how thrilled we are to have you with us. You’re an industry veteran and we’re honored to have you involved in our online content.

    Thanks for the invite.  I enjoy working with your crew and am always impressed by your innovative strategies to reach out to new prospects and educate existing customers on the growing role of LTO tape from SMB to the Data Center. 

    Let’s jump right into it! For the sake of starting things out on a fun note, what is the craziest story or experience you have had or know of involving the LTO / Tape industry? Maybe a fun fact that most are unaware of, or something you would typically tell friends and family… Anything that stands out…

    I’ve worked with a few tape library companies over the years and before that I sold the original 9 track ½ inch tape drives.  Those were monsters, but you would laugh how little data they stored on a reel of tape. One of the most memorable projects I worked on was in the Bay Area, at Oracle headquarters.  They had the idea to migrate from reel to reel tape drives with a plan to replace them with compact, rack mounted, ‘robotic’ tape libraries.  At the end, they replaced those library type shelves, storing hundreds of reels of tape with 32 tape libraries in their computer cabinets.  Each tape library had room for 40 tape slots and four 5 ¼ full high tape drives.  The contrast was impressive.  To restore data, they went from IT staffers physically moving tape media, in ‘sneaker mode’ to having software locate where the data was stored, grab and load the tape automatically in the tape library and start reading data.   Ok, maybe too much of a tape story, but as a young sales rep at the time it was one that I’ll never forget. 

    With someone like yourself who has been doing this for such a long time, what industry advancements and releases still get you excited to this day? What is Pat looking forward to right now in the LTO Tape world?

    I’m lucky.  We used to have five or more tape technologies all fighting for their place in the data protection equation, each from a different vendor. Now, Ultrium LTO tape has a majority of the market and is supported by a coalition of multiple technology vendors working together to advance the design. Some work in the physical tape media, some on the read/write heads, and some on the tape drive itself.  The business has become more predictable and more reliable.  About every two years the consortium releases the next level of LTO tape technology.  We will see LTO-9 technology begin public announcements by the end of 2020. And the thirst for higher storage capacity and higher performance in the same physical space, this is what keeps me more than optimistic about the future.

    When our sales team is making calls and asks a business if they are still backing up to LTO Tape, that question is always met with such an unappreciated / outdated response, in some cases we receive a response of laughter with something along the lines of “people still use tape” as a response. Why do you think LTO as a backup option is getting this type of response? What is it specifically about the technology that makes businesses feel as if LTO Tape is a way of the past…

    As a Tape Guy, I hear that question a lot.  The reality in the market is that some industries are generating so much data that they have to increase their dependence on tape based solutions as part of their storage hierarchy. It starts with just the cost comparison of data on a single disk drive versus that same amount of data on a LTO tape cartridge. LTO tape wins. But the real impact is some much bigger than just that.  Think about the really large data center facilities.  The bigger considerations are for instance, for a given amount of data (a lot) what solution can fit the most data in to a cabinet size solution.  Physical floor space in the data center is at a premium.  Tape wins. Then consider the cost of having that data accessible.  A rack of disk drives consume tons more energy that a tape library. Tape wins again. Then consider the cooling cost that go along with all those disk drives spinning platters.  Tape wins, creating a greener solution that is more cost effective. At HPE and available from DTC, we have white papers and presentations on just this topic of cost savings.   In summary, if a company is not looking at or using LTO tape, then their data retention, data protection and data archiving needs are just not yet at the breaking point. 

    There seems to be an emergence of the Disk / Hard Drive backup option being utilized by so many businesses. Do you feel like LTO Tape will ever be looked at with the same level of respect or appreciation by those same businesses?

    If you are talking about solid state disk for high access, and dedicated disk drive solutions for backup – sure that works.  But at some point you need multiple copies at multiple locations to protect your investment.  The downside of most disk only solutions is that all the data is accessible across the network.  Now days, Ransomware and CyberSecurity are part of the biggest threats to corporations, government agencies and even mom and pop SMBs.  The unique advantage of adding LTO tape based tape libraries is that the data is NOT easily tapped into because the physical media in not in the tape drive.  Again, HPE has very detailed white papers and presentations on this Air Gap principle, all available from DTC. 

    LTO Tape vs Hard Drive seems to be the big two in terms of the data / backup realm, as an insider to this topic, where do you see this battle going in the far future?

    It’s less of a battle and more of a plan to ‘divide the work load and let’s work together’.  In most environments, tape and disk work side by side with applications selecting where the data is kept. However, there are physical limitations on how much space is available on a spinning platter or set of platters, and this will dramatically slow down the growth of their capacity within a given form factor. With LTO tape technology, the physical areal footprint is so much bigger, because of the thousands of feet of tape within each tape cartridge. At LTO-8 we have 960 meters of tape to write on. Even at a half inch wide, that’s a lot of space for data. Both disk and tape technologies will improve how much data they can fit on their media, (areal density) but LTO tape just has the advantage of so much space to work with. LTO tape will continue to follow the future roadmap which is already spec’d out to LTO-12.  

    With so many years in this industry, what has been the highlight of your career?

    The technology has always impressed me, learning and talking about the details of a particular technical design advantage. Then, being able to work with a wide range of IT specialists and learning about their business and what they actually do with the data.  But when I look back, on the biggest highlights,  I remember all the great people that I have worked with side by side to solve customer’s storage and data protection problems.  Sometimes we won, sometimes we didn’t.  I will never forget working to do our best for the deal. 

    What tech advancements do you hope to see rolled out that would be a game changer for data storage as a whole?

    The data storage evolution is driven by the creation of more data, every day.  When one technology fails to keep pace with the growth, another one steps up to the challenge.  Like I have said, LTO tape has a pretty solid path forward for easily 6 more years of breakthrough advancements. In 6 years, I’m sure there will be some new technology working to knock out LTO, some new technology that today is just an idea. 

    We see more and more companies getting hit every day with ransomware / data theft due to hackers, what are your thoughts on this and where do you see things going with this. Will we ever reach a point where this will start to level off or become less common?

    Ransomware and cyber security are the hot topics keeping IT Directors and business owners up at night. It is a criminal activity that is highly lucrative. Criminals will continue to attempt to steal data, block access and hold companies for ransom wherever they can.  But they prefer easy targets. As I mentioned earlier, Tape Solutions offer one key advantage in this battle: if the data isn’t live on the network, the hacker has to work harder. This is a critical step to protect your data. 

    For more information on Pat, data backup / storage, + more follow Pat on Twitter:

    LTO-9 Tape Technology (Pre-Purchase Program)

    LTO-9 Tape Technology (Pre-Purchase Program)

    Our LTO-9 Pre-Purchase Program allows anyone to pre-order LTO-9 tape technology before it is available. This is the ninth generation of tape technology that delivers on the promise made by the LTO Consortium to develop LTO tape technology through at least 12 generations. In an endeavor to deliver our customers the latest technology on the market, we are offering pre orders of LTO-9 tape technology. This gives our customers the best opportunity to receive the latest generation of LTO tape as soon as it’s available. LTO-9 is expected to be available in Fall 2020.

     How to Buy: CLICK HERE | or call us today @ 1-800-700-7683.

    How to Sell: For those looking to sell your old data tapes prior to upgrading to LTO-9, CLICK HERE to submit your inventory and we will contact you back within 24 Hours.


    LTO TECHNOLOGY FOR LONG-TERM DATA PROTECTION

    LTO tape technology provides organizations with reliable, long-term data protection and preservation. With LTO tape drives, organizations can meet security and compliance requirements, while at the same time, save on storage footprint, power, and cooling costs, which can make a significant difference in operating costs for larger library environments.

    LTO-9 FEATURED HIGHLIGHTS

    • Lowest cost per GB.

    • Tape offers lower power and cooling costs, plus a lower footprint leads to improved TCO.

    • Linear Tape File System (LTFS) support.

    • AES 256-bit Encryption – Military-grade encryption comes standard.

    • WORM technology – Makes data non-rewriteable and non-erasable, which acts as an immutable vault within your tape library to secure and protect an offline copy from ransomware.

    LTO-9 vs. LTO-8

    LTO-9 (Linear Tape-Open 9) is the most recently released tape format from the Linear Tape-Open Consortium, following the LTO-8 format which launched in 2017. LTO-9 is expected to double the capacity of LTO-8 to 60 TB compressed. LTO-8 provides 30 TB of compressed storage capacity and 12 TB of uncompressed capacity, doubling what LTO-7 offered.

    Although, the LTO Consortium has not announced the data transfer rate for LTO-9 yet, LTO-8 features an uncompressed data transfer rate of up to 360 MBps and a compressed data transfer rate of up to 750 MBps. 

    LTO-9 has a similar structure to LTO-8 in that tape drives are backward-compatible with one generation. Essentially, the LTO-8 tapes can read and write to LTO-7 tapes. LTO had typically been able to read back two generations and write back one generation. However, in LTO-8 the backward reading compatibility is limited to one generation. 

    LTO-9 also features the same WORM, LTFS, and 256-bitencryption technology as the prior generation LTO-8.

    Uses for LTO-9

    LTO features high capacity, durability, and portability for a comparatively low cost. Archived data storage is not normally needed on an immediate basis, making tape a solid backup option. More commonly, backup data is used for restores in the event of an incident or data loss.

    LTO-9 tapes housed at an off-site location are a fantastic option for disaster recovery. If an organizations main data hub has an incident, they can use the durable LTO9 tapes to recover their data. According to the LTO consortium, once data becomes less frequently retrieved, it should be migrated to tape. 

    Tape is particularly useful in industries such as entertainment and healthcare that generate large volumes of data every day and require a long-term data storage option that’s less expensive than disk. As ransomware attacks stay in the headlines, tape provides an offline backup storage option immune to a cyber-attack. Data stored on an LTO-9 tape cartridge does not have to be connected to the network. This creates what is called an Airgap and creates a safety net from a cyberattack.

    Pros and Cons of LTO-9 Tape

    Tape capacity continues to expand. When LTO-9 launches, it will have enhanced the compressed capacity of the LTO tape products by almost 60 TB in roughly 10 years. As data levels continue to grow rapidly for many groups, capacity is one of the most important aspects of data storage media. Even the cost of tape is low compared to storing 60 TB on other storage media such as disk or flash. Particularly when taking energy and equipment into consideration as a constant energy source is not required to keep data stored on tape.

    Other advantages of LTO-9 tape include:

    • A reliable generational roadmap that allows customers to count on a new product every few years, and a capacity that is not far off from the original estimate.

    • 256-bit encryption that guarantees security during storage and shipment. Its offline nature also serves as protection from ransomware and cyberattacks, creating an airgap.

    • A reputation of being extremely reliable, with a lifespan of roughly 30 years. The tape format is also portable, making it remarkably easy to transport.

    LTO’s open format also allows customers to access multiple, compatible products. The open format offers intellectual property licenses to prospective manufacturers, leading to innovation and improvements. However, LTO products are not compatible with non-LTO products.

    Depending on the amount of data you need to store, cloud storage can be less expensive than tape. In some instances, cloud backup providers provide a free option up to a specified volume of data. Cloud also offers random access, unlike tape. But restoration of data files can be slow depending on data volume and bandwidth.

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