In 1998, the LTO-consortium laid out a target specs roadmap for LTO-1 through LTO-4. The consortium has been right
Right now, SDLT 600 is the benchmark with capacity and performance at 300 GB and 36 MBps(uncompressed). The highest LTO-2 numbers you'll find are 200 GB and 35 MBps. The next generation of LTO-3 may surpass targets of 400 GB and 60-80 MBps. This seems like a lot of "my tapes are bigger than yours" syndrome. Why should users care about these new versions of tape?
We've been seeing a lot of the leapfrogging speeds and feeds. We see that DLT will take the lead for six to nine months, then a new version of LTO will come out and will take the market for about the same time. The leapfrogging will probably continue. Where tape is differentiating itself is in the diagnostic features. An example of this is DLT Sage. This was released by Quantum last summer and has been a big hit. DLT Sage enhances the appeal of SDLT 600 by offering better and preventative diagnostics. You can expect LTO-3 will have some of these characteristics.
Speeds and feeds are starting to lose its sizzle. I think you'll begin to see a shift in strategies away from speeds and feeds and more toward enhanced features. Will there be any problems with backward compatibility?
No. One of the key concerns I hear about over and over is make sure the product is backward compatible. Look at DDS. I don't think anyone would be using DDS if it was not backward compatible. Compatibility is key. When will we start seeing actual LTO-3 products?
I expect the specs to be ready very soon. You'll start to see pre-announcements and product announcements in one to two quarters. Right now, the consortium is making revisions to the specs. There may be some infighting holding the process up. But, expect to see products shipped early next year.