LTO-8 Tapes To Finally Ship in 4Q
August 26, 2019 Alex Woodie
A long-running patent dispute between Sony and Fujifilm has been settled and shipments of LTO-8 tape media will finally become generally available in the United States in the fourth quarter, the companies involved in the dispute have announced.
While IBM and other companies have been shipping LTO-8 drives for well over a year, customers around the world have not been able to use the LTO-8 tapes designed to work with them. That’s because delivery of LTO-8 tapes has been held up due to a patent infringement lawsuit raging in US Federal Court between Sony and Fujifilm, which are the only two providers of LTO-8 media.
Customers who have purchased LTO-8 drives in anticipation of being able to use the full 12 TB storage capacity of LTO-8 tapes (30 TB compressed) instead have been forced to use the smaller LTO-7 media, which sport a native 6 TB capacity (15 TB compressed). Customers can use LTO-8 drives to write to LTO-7 media labeled “Type M-8.” To configure the LTO-7 tape this way, the cartridge must be brand new. The M configured LTO-7 tapes can store up to 9 TB of uncompressed data, a 50 percent increase over standard LTO-7 tapes.
In a break from tradition, LTO-8 drives cannot read LTO-6 media. Historically, LTO drives have been able to read the past two generations of tape media, and been able to write data to the previous generation. LTO-8 is the first generation of LTO Ultrium tape that can only support reads going back one generation.
The kerfuffle has undoubtedly put a crimp in global LTO-8 sales. While the legal drama played out in US courts, companies around the world have reported shortages in LTO-8 media (although there are a few out there). More than a year’s worth of potential LTO-8 media sales have been lost to the dispute. All this comes as work on LTO-9 gets closer to coming to market.
It’s unclear exactly what precipitated the ending of the lawsuits. Some speculate that Fujifilm and Sony have entered into a cross-patent licensing agreement. In any event, the heads of the LTO Program, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, and Quantum — the so-called Technology Provider Companies (TPCs) – have licensed LTO-8 technology to Fujifilm and Sony.
“We are pleased to have two licensees for tape solutions allowing us to deliver more product to market, and enabling us to once again provide tape technology solutions, including LTO generation 8, to our partners and end-users,” Quantum’s senior director Eric Bassier said in a press release. “As part of the LTO Program, we look forward to continuing to grow tape technology capabilities to meet the growing demands of data storage and long-term data retention.”
Just after LTO-8 was unveiled in late 2017, the LTO group announced that it has pushed the LTO Ultrium format out to 12 generations. While the group didn’t specify when LTO-9 would ship, historically each generation has come out about two years after the previous one (with some exceptions). If history is any guide, it would put LTO-9 on track for delivery in the second half of 2019. That obviously is not going to happen.
In light of the delay in LTO-8 availability and the expected launch of LTO-9 at some point in the near future, some customers may be thinking about skipping LTO-8 entirely and waiting for LTO-9. In light of that market dynamic, the LTO group could decide to delay the roll-out of LTO-9.
IT Jungle reached out to the LTO consortium, which deferred declined to comment further on the matter.