Overland Launches LTO 6 Tape Drives
October 16, 2012 Alex Woodie
Overland Storage last week became one of the first vendors to begin selling LTO 6 tape technologies when it introduced it as a supported option with its NEO series of tape drives and libraries. While LTO 6 drives don’t deliver the expected speed and capacity improvements, they nevertheless pose a notable improvement over LTO 5 technology.
Overland is supporting LTO 6 drives across several NEO autoloaders and libraries, including the NEO S-Series, which supports from 7 TB to 300 TB, four LTO drives, and is designed for small offices and remote locations; and the NEO E-Series libraries, which support from 24 TB to 3.1 PB, up to 12 LTO drives, data and is designed for large companies.
Peri Grover, director of product marketing for Overland, is bullish on LTO 6 technology. “The amount of early demand we’ve seen from customers for LTO6, and the fact that the tape market is expected to grow 45 percent through 2015, is a clear indicator that tape is now, and will be for the foreseeable future, a critical component of any data center storage hierarchy,” he states in a press release.
The specifications for LTO 6 were released in June with the expectation that the first LTO 6 drives would be available by August. IBM, which is one of the founding members of the LTO program along with HP and Quantum, introduced LTO 6 technology two weeks ago in its TS1060 drive. Neither HP nor Quantum have shipped LTO 6 drives yet.
LTO 6 cartridges can store 2.5 TB of uncompressed data, and LTO 6 drives can transfer uncompressed data at 160 MB per second. LTO 6 supports compression rates up to 2.5-to-1, the first jump in compression ratios for the LTO program, which has supported 2-to-1 since the first LTO 1 drives shipped back in 2000.
The performance figures for LTO 6 are, of course, better than those for LTO 5, which offered 1.5 TB native capacity, 140 MB per second transfer rate, and 2-to-1 compression. However, LTO 6 specs do not live up to the hype. In fact, they don’t even live up to the LTO programs own initial performance projections from 2008, which called for 3.2 TB native capacity and 210 MB per second transfer rates.
In this regard, LTO 6 becomes the first generation of LTO that didn’t double the native storage capacity (or nearly double it in the case of the jump from 800 MB to 1.5 TB in the move from LTO 4 to LTO 5). Only with the increase in compression ratios does LTO 6 provide a doubling of capacity, to 6.25 TB from 3 TB.
Further, LTO 6 has no redeeming new feature to entice customers to buy it. To recap, LTO 5 brought us the linear tape file system (LTFS) and the capability to “drag and drop” items to LTO tapes just as easily as you move files to a USB jump drive; LTO 4 brought support for encryption, and LTO 3 brought support for write once, read many (WORM).
Nevertheless, expectations are once again soaring for the next generation of LTO technology, raising the hopes of LTO users everywhere. The LTO program claims that LTO 7 will deliver 6.4 TB native capacity and 315 MB per second transfer rates, and that LTO 8 will deliver 12.8 TB of native capacity and 472 MB per second transfer rates. Compression is expected to remain at 2.5-to-1. Apparently, the incremental performance improvement we’re seeing with LTO 6 will give way to the good old days of big jumps in speed and capacity.