Total LTO Shipped Capacity Up Slightly in 2022
May 24, 2023 Alex Woodie
More than 148 exabytes of compressed LTO tape capacity was shipped in 2022, a slight increase from the previous year, the LTO Program announced yesterday. The growth signals the continued relevancy of tape in a changing landscape marked by the predicted demise of spinning disk, the ubiquity of ransomware, and the continued growth of unstructured data.
Shipped LTO capacity reached a record high last year of 148.3 exabytes, a half-percent increase over 2021, according to the LTO Program, which is comprised of IBM, HPE, and Quantum. While unit shipments of tape cartridges declined slightly, capacity still grew thanks to more spacious LTO-8 and LTO-9 tape cartridges.
The continued growth of LTO stands in contrast to the declines met by other data storage formats, says Bruno Hald, the general manager of secondary storage at Quantum. “Both hyperscale and enterprise customers continue to value LTO tape as low cost, secure, and green data storage for data protection and archiving,” he says in a press release.
The recent history of LTO delivery has been a bit turbulent, thanks to legal disputes and COVID. In 2018, lawsuits between Sony and Fujifilm, the only two makers of LTO media, delayed the delivery of LTO-8 cartridges for over a year, until they two parties settled their differences at the end of 2019. The onset of the pandemic helped to initially dampen demand, and 2020 was marked by about a 10 percent decrease in overall shipped capacity.
Demand came roaring back in 2021, thanks in part to full availability of LTO-8 gear as well as the ransomware epidemic. Shipped LTO capacity surged 40 percent in 2021 compared the previous year, growth the LTO Program attributed in part to tape being a low-cost and reliable method to airgap data and protect it from ransomware.
The LTO Program resumed delivering on its planned roadmap in September 2021, when it started shipping LTO-9 gear with up to 45TB of compressed capacity per cartridge. The following month, IBM and Quantum announced they would work together on LTO-10, which ostensibly would come to market in the 2024-2025 timeframe.
In September of 2022, the LTO Program announced it has pushed its LTO tape roadmap out two more generations, to LTO-14. That generation of tape, expected in about a decade or so, would deliver up to 1.4PB of compressed capacity per cartridge.
Efficiency and security two big advantages LTO tape holds other storage media, says Christophe Bertrand, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.
“LTO tape offers a low cost, secure solution for ransomware protection,” Bertrand says in a press release. “We’re seeing that LTO technology continues to represent a high value for traditional customers in need of airgap and long-term data storage, which is one of the factors driving a resurgence in enterprise demand.”
The amount of data created in the world continues to increase at an exponential rate, and tape seems poised to capture at least some of it. According to the recent IDC Global DataSphere report, 64.2 zettabytes of data was created in 2020. With a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 percent, we are on pace to have more than 180ZB of data by 2025.
Where will all that data – much of it unstructured words, images, video, and sound files – go? It doesn’t seem feasible that it will go on spinning disk, which are on their way out, according to some press reports. And solid state disks (SSDs) are still too expensive for archiving and unstructured data storage.
Tape seems to have a decent shot at capturing some of those backup and archival storage workloads. Considering the big investments that public cloud vendors are making in tape – and in LTO gear specifically – it’s worth asking whether enterprises should keep tape in their long-range plans, too.
LTO Group Pushes Roadmap Out to Generation 14
Shipped Tape Capacity Up 40 Percent, LTO Program Says
LTO-9 Drives and Cartridges Finally Get Out the Door