It has now already been two years since the announcement of the fifth LTO tape generation’s technology and two years on the market once Q2 reaches us. The first generation of Linear Tape-Open, or LTO, was introduced toward the end of the year of 2000 providing an initial capacity of 100GB. Every couple of years following the storage capacity in each LTO generation of tape media released has doubled excluding the LTO4 to LTO5 jump which was just shy of the two-fold at 800/1.6TB to 1.5TB/3TB (native/compressed).


The benefits in having a current technology of LTO for the LTO users are typically obvious; newer generation of tape equals more capacity; more capacity equals less physical cartridges. Less physical cartridges equals less storage space needed in initial storage in the data center, tape library itself and again after use when the tapes are filed. In the tape drives themselves newer technology offers higher throughput; LTO5 offers 8Gbps FC for added headroom and the most demanding of traffic along with a maximum throughout speed of 140MB/s – more than three times LTO2’s ability and seven times the original LTO technology.


Backup times from job beginning to end are heavily influenced by the speed the tape drive(s), and therefore the library, can write. LTO1’s has a write speed of 20MB/s which was doubled to 40MB/s in LTO2 and doubled again to 80MB/s in LTO3 where the increase minimised a little to 120MB/s in LTO’s fourth generation. With LTO5’s 140MB/s write speed it highlights the incredible improvement from LTO’s first three generations. Along with 8Gbps fibre connectivity available with LTO5 there is an avenue offered for high input levels.


What may not be as obvious as the above are the ongoing maintenance costs of a tape library utilising older technology such as LTO1, 2 or 3. These technologies can be between seven and twelve years old resulting in very poor return on investment today. Support prices for earlier LTO generations will obviously be a lot higher than the recent fifth LTO generation as parts become harder to find for maintenance providers and vendors.


Perhaps another not-so-well-known is that drive level encryption has been available since 2007 when LTO4 was introduced which uses a 256-bit AES-GCM format. LTO5 also has encryption capability and the feature is planned to continue into the coming LTO generations.


The price of tape media is also a point to consider; the GB per $ ratio tends to increase for the better the newer the generation of LTO media your business is utilising as it’s a current technology. Typically less stock of LTO1, 2 and 3 is kept on hand with distributors than the media to suit LTO4 and 5.


We can provide assistance here for the investment into a brand new or more current tape library and technology. All LTO technology can read two generations behind and write one generation behind which, for most businesses, won’t prohibit a tape upgrade. We also provide alternative solutions in refurbished libraries for anyone who does have an exemption and can move up in tape technology but just not to LTO’s fifth and current generation. An alternative, if your current tape library supports newer LTO drives, can be to replace those drives with newer ones whether it be brand new LTO5 or refurbished LTO2, 3 or 4. That way the tape library is still kept while being more up to date with today’s standards.

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