LTO-5 On Course for 2009
February 5, 2008 Alex Woodie
The new Linear Tape Open (LTO) Generation 5 tape drive specification is progressing well, and is on its way to being solidified, the companies behind the LTO program–IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Quantum–announced recently.
Since it was first released at the beginning of the decade, the LTO tape specification has come to dominate the market for midrange tape drives. Momentum really picked up in late 2005, when drives based on the LTO-3 spec, which offers 400 GB capacity and 80 MB per second (MBps) data transfer speeds (double that with compression), were delivered. About a year ago, the market started seeing the first tape drives based on the LTO-4 specification, which offers 800 GB of native capacity and a data transfer rate of 120 MBps (which doubles with compression). LTO-4 was also significant because it was the first open tape specification to include native encryption. With nearly 90 percent of the market, LTO has become the dominant force.
Now the LTO consortium is looking to extend that dominance for another few years with LTO-5. While the specification hasn’t been nailed down yet, it’s expected to deliver another doubling of capacity–that means cartridges that are capable of holding 1.6 TB–and another 50 percent boost in speed to 180 MBps (which, again, are doubled with compression).
A couple of weeks ago, the LTO consortium began to beat the drum for LTO-5 by announcing “enhanced package licenses” for LTO Ultrium format Generation 5. Organizations that purchase the enhanced package license can be expected to gain insight into the LTO-5 tape specification as it is progressing, and interact with the technical team before the LTO-5 specification is officially released.
“LTO-5 is progressing and well on its way,” a consortium spokesperson said, adding that LTO-5 gear could be expected to become available during the first or second quarter of 2009, if the consortium’s history of shipping major releases every two years is any guide.
The LTO roadmap currently goes out to a sixth generation, which theoretically would deliver 3.2 TB of capacity and a transfer rate of 270 MBps, and which would be available in 2011. There is not currently a plan to extend LTO out to a seventh generation.
The LTO camp–but perhaps not the roadmap–was strengthened in February 2007, when Quantum stopped development of its DLT line, which was seen as the strongest competitor to LTO for midmarket tape (Sony‘s AIT being the other). Quantum, which acquired Certance (formerly Seagate) in 2004, had developed a technology roadmap for DLT that took it out to a seventh generation capable of storing 6 to 7 TB of capacity and moving data at speeds of 400 to 500 MBps. However, lack of adoption of its fourth-generation products led it to stop development of DLT and throw its weight behind LTO.