LTO Consortium Pushes Roadmap To Gen 12
October 25, 2017 Alex Woodie
Hot on the heels of the release of final LTO-8 specifications and the first LTO-8 drives from IBM, the LTO Consortium revealed plans to push the tape technology out to a 12th generation. By the time LTO-12 ships, ostensibly in the mid-to-late 2020s, a single cartridge should be able to store nearly half a petabyte of data, according to the group.
Last week, the LTO Consortium, which is composed of IBM, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and Quantum, announced that it has pushed the LTO Ultrium roadmap out two more generations. It was the first major addition since the group extended the roadmap out to generation 10 in 2014.
According to the roadmap, the plan calls for doubling the capacity of cartridges with every subsequent generation, which is a pattern the group has more or less maintained since it shipped the first LTO-1 drives in 2000. The compression rate of 2.5-to-one is not expected to change over the next four generations; it hasn’t been increased since LTO-6 gear started shipping in early 2013.
The full-height LTO-8 drives that IBM will start shipping on November 17 can store 12 TB of data on a single LTO-8 cartridge, and move data at rates up to 360 MB per second; it’s also offering a half-height LTO-8 drive that can move data at only 300 MB per second. With compression turned on, the capacity of LTO-8 drives jumps to 30 TB, while the transfer rates increase to 900 MB per second (750 MB per second on half-height drives).
According to the LTO roadmap, the native capacities of LTO gear will double with every subsequent generation. LTO-9 will sport 24 TB of native capacity; LTO-10 will have 48 TB of capacity; LTO-11 will offer 96 TB; and LTO-12 will support 192 TB of native capacity. Likewise, the compressed capacities will increase from 60 TB with LTO-9, 120 TB with LTO-10, 240 TB with LTO-11, and 480 TB with LTO-12.
This nice, linear projection in capacity increases is very close to what the LTO Consortium called for when it pushed the roadmap out to a tenth generation three years ago. Back then, the roadmap called for LTO-8 cartridges to have a native capacity of 12.8 TB. Similarly, the 2014 roadmap called for LTO-9 to have a native capacity of 25 TB, whereas the new roadmap calls for a 24-TB capacity. The 2014 roadmap called for LTO-10 to have native capacity of 48 TB, which is unchanged with the new roadmap.
What’s unknown at this point is what the data transfer speeds will look like in forthcoming LTO Ultrium generations. Back in 2014, the LTO Consortium projected a native data transfer rate of 472 MB per second with the LTO-8 gear. However, when the LTO-8 specs came out recently, the maximum data transfer rate was significantly lower, at 360 MB per second. That’s 24 percent slower than expected, although 20 percent better than LTO-7 gear.
Data transfer rates has been the bugaboo of the LTO Consortium for years. In the early years, it consistently delivered 100 percent increases in capacity and 50 percent increases in data transfer rates from one generation to the next. But those consistent increases hit a wall with the LTO-5 gear, when the group delivered a paltry 17 percent increase from LTO-4 gear.
Nevertheless, the LTO group continued to aim high. When it published its 2014 roadmap plotting the course out to LTO-10, the group projected 50 percent increases in data transfer speeds in each subsequent generation. LTO-9 was slated to have native speeds of 708 MB per second and LTO-10 was supposed to move 1.1 GB of data per second.
In any event, we’ll have to wait to find out. The LTO Consortium declined IT Jungle‘s request for data transfer projections for the new roadmap that carries the Ultrium tape format from LTO-9 through LTO-12.
It would seem that, absent some breakthrough, we should probably expect 20 percent improvements in data transfer speeds, which is exactly what the group delivered with the jump from LTO-7 to LTO-8. With that number in mind, LTO-9 should hit about 430 MB per second; LTO-10 should hit about 520 MB per second; LTO-11, should hit about 622 MB per second; and LTO-12 should hit about 745 MB per second.
Whether these projections turn out to be accurate is anybody’s guess. Bottlenecks are constantly shifting in the IT world. As soon as somebody figures out how to speed up the transfer of data – maybe through some advanced new compression technology – the bottleneck will shift and cause problems somewhere else.