LTO Group Pushes Roadmap Out to Generation 14
September 21, 2022 Alex Woodie
Native capacities for Linear Tape-Open (LTO) cartridges will once again double with every successive generation, according to a new roadmap published this month by the group of companies behind the LTO spec.
The new roadmap published by IBM, HPE, and Quantum, which are the Technology Provider Companies (TPCs) behind the LTO program, show the LTO Ultrium format being pushed out four more generations. When LTO Gen 14 tapes hit the market – likely a decade from now or longer – they will have a native capacity of “up to 576TB,” and a compressed capacity of up to 1.44PB.
It’s been almost exactly eight years since the LTO Program extended the roadmap. Back in September 2014, when the market was shipping LTO Gen 6 cartridges with 3.2TB of storage capacity and LTO Gen 6 drives with 210MB per second transfer rates, the LTO Program added a ninth and a tenth generation. The delivery of LTO Gen 9 gear was delayed, in part due to lawsuits. IBM just started shipping LTO 9 gear around this time last year.
Now the LTO Program has extended the format out four more generations. If the traditional two-to-three year interval between generations holds up – and if the LTO Gen 10 gear that is currently under development ships in the 2023-2024 timeframe – then the LTO Gen 14 gear possibly would ship 10 years from then, or the 2033-2034 timeframe.
Regardless of delivery timelines, the increase in storage capacity is expected to be significant. The LTO Program stated that LTO-14 will surpass the capacity of current LTO-9 cartridges by 32 times. The organization did not provide estimates on data transfer speeds.
Another significant aspect of the announcement is the return to a doubling of tape capacity for every subsequent generation. The LTO Program hit that mark repeatedly in its early years, only to hit a wall with more recent generations, in which capacity only increased by 50 percent. It’s not clear how the group intends to hit the target, but the fact that it has committed to increasing the capacities by “up to” 100% each generation shows the group is taking the demand for ever-greater capacity seriously.
According to Phil Goodwin, a research vice president with the analyst group IDC, the market for magnetic tape grew by 10.5 percent in 2021. With data volumes doubling every two to three years, multi-petabyte implementations are becoming commonplace, he says.
“This LTO roadmap, out to Generation 14 with more than 1 PB of compressed capacity per cartridge, illustrates how LTO technology will continue advancing to meet organizations’ large capacity storage needs for years to come,” Goodwin says in a press release.
While data generation and data storage are on ever-increasing trajectory, it was the expansion of the ransomware epidemic triggered in part by the COVID-19 pandemic that spurred demand for air-gapped storage methods like tape.
“LTO tape is more relevant than ever as low-cost, sustainable storage for long-term data archiving, and as a secure data storage option for strengthening cybersecurity,” Sam Werner, vice president of storage product management at IBM, says in a press release. “With specifications now defined through generation 14, LTO tape is poised to support rapid and accelerating data growth. It offers organizations a sustainable, reliable, and low-cost solution to protect and store their critical business data.”