Quantum to Help IBM Develop LTO-10
October 27, 2021 Alex Woodie
IBM and Quantum last week announced they have entered into a partnership to jointly develop the next generation of Linear Tape-Open (LTO) technology, LTO-10, which is currently under development and likely will come to market in 2024 or 2025.
The announcement was unusually terse in its wording. “Under the terms of the agreement,” Quantum stated in its October 19 press release, “Quantum will collaborate with IBM in its development of LTO-10 tape drives and media in order to accelerate time-to-market, capacity, and performance. The specific terms of the agreement are confidential and will not be disclosed.”
The fact that IBM and Quantum are working together on LTO should not be a great surprise. After all, Quantum is one of three founding members of the LTO Consortium, along with IBM and Hewlett-Packard (now Hewlett Packard Enterprise). The three companies have always collaborated to some extent on hashing out the standards behind LTO. Now it appears that two out of the three will work together on engineering the actual tape drives and tape cartridges that adhere to that standard.
IBM announced its LTO-9 drives on September 7, and started shipping them on September 10, according to its announcement. Its F9C and F9S drives are designed to run in a TS4500 tape library and connect to hosts via Fibre Channel delivering 8 Gbps of throughput, while the S9C drive sports dual-port SAS connections to deliver 12 Gbps of throughput.
Quantum has yet to announce its LTO-9 drives, but it is encouraging customers on its website to “secure your LTO-9 drives today.” The company says it is offering LTO-9 full-height drives for its Scalar libraries, including models i6000, i6, i500, AEL6000, AEL6, and AEL500.
With 18 TB of raw capacity and 400 MBps of native throughput, the LTO-9 spec, which was announced September 2020, delivers a 50 percent capacity and speed boost over the LTO-8 gear (those numbers increase with 2.5-to-1 compression turned on).
However, the LTO-8 generation of tape was married by disputes between tape cartridge manufactures Sony and Fujifilm, which delayed delivery of LTO-8 media until the fourth quarter of 2019. IBM first announced delivery its LTO-8 drives in October 2017, which meant LTO-8 drive owners had to use their new drives with older LTO-7 media for nearly two years.
More delays met the LTO-9 generation of gear. When the LTO Consortium announced the LTO-9 spec last September, LTO-9 cartridges were expected to begin shipping in the first or second quarter of 2021. However, delays pushed that date back until the third quarter. In September of this year, Fujifilm and Sony announced they have completed interchange compliance testing for LTO-9 media, opening the way for the companies to get LTO-9 cartridges out the door.
With work on the LTO-9 drives and cartridges complete, the LTO Consortium’s attention now turns to LTO-10. The next generation of the super tape standard is expected to deliver a 50 percent increase in native capacity, to 36TB of storage per cartridge (up to 90TB with compression).
It’s unclear when the new spec will be finalized. The LTO Consortium is typically mum on these matters. But if history is any guide, then the next release of the LTO standard will come about three years following the previous one, which means an LTO-10 standard will be announced in 2023 and delivery of the goods in 2024.
The ransomware threat and the benefits that air-gapped tape can provide is front and center for the LTO Consortium and its members. While tape is falling out of favor for primary backups with fast VTL and disk-based appliances, the ability to have a copy of one’s business data sitting on a cartridge that a hacker and her malicious software has no way to touch has a growing appeal.
“With the massive growth in data, as well as pervasive ransomware threats, low-cost ultra-secure LTO is more relevant than ever,” Quantum CEO and President Jamie Lerner states in a press release. “It is a strategic technology for large scale data storage, and it is imperative that LTO technology continues to evolve to meet growing marketplace needs. This partnership underscores our commitment to LTO and our desire to collaborate with IBM in their development of LTO-10.”