Capacious LTO Gen 7 Tape Storage Comes To Market
October 12, 2015 Alex Woodie
IBM i shops that are feeling crunched by exploding data volumes may want to check out the latest LTO Generation 7 tape drives that will soon be available from IBM and other manufacturers. Sporting a native capacity of 6 TB per cartridge and a data transfer rate of 300 MB per second, the new LTO 7 drives and media offer twice the capacity and performance of LTO 6 gear, and present a bargain for those demanding low-cost, long-term retention of massive datasets.
The LTO Consortium unveiled the final LTO 7 specifications in September, and they were down from the original expectations put out by the group a year ago, but only slightly. At that time, the LTO Consortium predicted LTO 7 would have 6.4 TB of native capacity and a native data transfer rate of 315 MB per second. The compression rate of 2.5:1 remains the same.
The plan calls for a doubling of capacity and performance every generation for LTO 8 through LTO 10, says Laura Loredo, who is Hewlett-Packard‘s the worldwide product manager for enterprise servers storage and networking, and a representative of the LTO Consortium.
“The main difference with LTO 7 is we have doubled the number of heads on the drive,” Loredo tells IT Jungle. “With LTO 5 and 6, we had 16 heads, so we were writing 16 channels. With LTO 7, we doubled that to 32 channels, so we are reading and writing more data.”
All that data storage capacity is being gobbled up by customers. More than 4.5 million LTO drives have shipped since the program began over a decade ago, and HP is now shipping 7,000 PB of LTO cartridge capacity per quarter. Much of the demand is coming from the media and entertainment industry, which seems to love the ease of data access that LTFS, the file system created to ride atop tapes, brings to the table.
“We are seeing huge increases in the content [media and entertainment companies] are creating with 4K video and now 8K video coming out,” Loredo says. “The amount of data they’re generating is unbelievable. Before you had one or two cameras, but now they have GoPro cameras everywhere, and they want to keep that footage forever basically.”
A similar story is playing out in the video surveillance, healthcare, and oil and gas markets, Loredo says. “We’re seeing video surveillance everywhere and data being kept for longer times,” she says. “And it’s no good to have cameras where you can’t see the people, so they’re getting more high definition in video surveillance cameras and more cameras everywhere.”
With all that data piling up, the odds of encountering an error when writing data goes up. But with LTO 7, the error rate has gone down significantly–to approximately one error in 10 to the 19th bits, which is 100 times better than LTO 6. “That is over 4X better than a hard drive,” Loredo says. “When you have a big customer who is writing petabytes of data, then it makes a difference to have an error occurring in 10 to the 19th bit instead of 10 to the 15th bit, like hard drives have.”
All this data storage capacity may be overkill for some IBM i shops, which generally aren’t going to use LTO 7 for long-term storage of unstructured data, such as video or still images. Instead, IBM i shops will typically use LTO drives to back up their database and applications. But when you can store 15 TB of compressed data on a single $40-LTO 7 cartridge, and that cartridge can sit on a shelf for years before being called into action, it can be hard to turn down.
IBM LTO 7 Announcements
On October 6, IBM announced its new LTO Ultrium 7 tape drives, as well as LTO 7 support in a slew of tape storage products, all of which ships November 20. The announcements include:
IBM also announced a product preview for something called the IBM Spectrum Archive Single Drive Edition, which will get an LTO 7 drive in the fourth quarter. We’ll have more information on this when it becomes available.