LTO-9 Drives and Cartridges Finally Get Out the Door
September 8, 2021 Alex Woodie
It’s been almost a year since the principals that make up the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Program — IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Quantum — announced the specifications for LTO Ultrium 9 (LTO-9) tape cartridge and drive. This week, the companies involved in the LTO Program finally announced that they’re getting LTO-9 gear out the door.
With 18TB native capacity and data transfer rates of 400 MB per second — both of which go higher with 2.5-to-one compression turned on — the ninth generation of the LTO format is expected to be adopted by organizations that need to store large volumes of data for long periods, with low costs and a high degree of security.
IBM announced three new LTO-9 drives, including the F9C, F9S, and S9C, which are designed to be installed in an IBM TS4500 tape library. The F9C and F9S both sport 8 Gbps Fibre Channel dual-ported drive connections to hosts, while S9C sports a 12 Gbps dual-ported SAS connection to the host. The drives are expected to become generally available on September 10.
LTO-9 drives offer full backward read and write compatibility with LTO-8 cartridges. LTO-9 cartridges support many previously introduced features, including multi-layer security support via hardware-based encryption, WORM (Write-Once, Read-Many) functionality, and support for Linear Tape File System (LTFS).
When it announced the LTO-9 spec last September, the LTO consortium initially expected LTO-9 cartridges to begin shipping in the first or second quarter of 2021. However, delays pushed that date back until the third quarter. The LTO Program yesterday announced that Fujifilm and Sony have completed interchange compliance testing for LTO-9 media, opening the way for the companies to use the LTO-9 labels on their products.
Fujifilm yesterday announced the delivery of its first LTO-9 tape cartridges, the latest in a long line of advances in the super tape format that first debuted in 2000. Sony, which is the only other media manufacturer certified to sell LTO-9 cartridges, is expected to announce the availability of its LTO-9 cartridges soon.
The LTO-9 specification represented a somewhat disappointing performance increase over LTO-8, which offered 12TB of native capacity and 300 MBps data transfer rates. Instead of doubling the capacity, as the LTO Program traditionally has sought to do with each subsequent generation of the tape program, the LTO Program offered only a 50 percent increase. The data transfer rate, meanwhile, increased by about 33 percent, down significantly from the 87.5 percent increase from LTO-7 to LTO-8.
The LTO Program has not changed the roadmap for the tape format. The roadmap calls for LTO-10 to deliver “up to” 36 TB of native capacity, followed by LTO-11 with 72TB native capacity and LTO-12 with 144 TB of native capacity. The roadmap specs all assume 2.5-to-one compression; expected released dates were not provided.
The LTO Program last month announced that it shipped 105,198 petabytes of compressed tape capacity in 2020. That was down about 8 percent from 2019, when 114,079 petabytes of compressed tape capacity was shipped. That was a record amount, and it came despite a legal dispute between Fujifilm and Sony that delayed the delivery of LTO-8 media until the fourth quarter of 2019, leaving users of new LTO-8 drives to use them with older (and less spacious) LTO-7 and earlier drives.
“Coming off record capacity shipped in 2019, we were optimistic for 2020, but global shutdowns and other factors outside of our collective control led to a reduced performance,” stated Eric Bassier, a senior director with Quantum, in a press release. “We’re optimistic that there will be a return to the prior capacity growth trend in 2021 as companies return to making storage purchases, account for new trends requiring stronger security measures, and we continue to see shifts in purchases from older to newer generations of LTO tape.”
LTO Program participants will be positioning LTO-9 as an ideal medium for storing data in the era of ransomware and climate change — the former because the air gapped nature of tape storage makes it more secure from cybercriminals, and the latter because of tape’s energy efficiency relative to spinning disk.
“Storage best practices call for having a copy of data offline to ensure that infected files aren’t able to corrupt the system,” says Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst Christophe Bertrand in a press release. “LTO products have an important role in data protection and are a critical component in ensuring that your system can be restored in the event of an attack.”
“The prevalence of ransomware exploded during the pandemic as the shift to remote work created more opportunities for threats to corporate networks,” stated IDC Research Director Phil Goodwin. “With the native ability to provide air gap and fast restore, LTO tape will continue to be a core component of data management best practices.”
“Fujifilm LTO Ultrium 9 will meet the world’s growing demands for data storage, cybersecurity, and reduced climate impact,” stated Hironobu Taketomi, the president of Fujifilm Recording Media U.S.A., Inc., the Japanese company’s Valhalla, New York-based subsidiary. “This next generation of higher capacity and faster tape storage media represents a significant step towards reducing costs, lowering energy consumption and CO2 emissions, and leveraging tape’s inherent security benefits.”