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New LTO-7 tape specification is now available for licensing

Hard disk drives (HDDs) are up to 8 TB and 10 TB, and flash storage may be all the rage, but tape keeps rolling along.

Hewlett-Packard (HP), IBM and Quantum – the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Program Technology Provider Companies (TPCs) – announced this week that the seventh generation specifications of the LTO Ultrium format are available for licensing by storage mechanism and media manufacturers.

The new LTO-7 specification lists the maximum compressed capacity at 15 TB per tape cartridge, more than double the 6.25 TB compressed capacity of the prior LTO-6 generation. The specification assumes a compression ratio of 2.5 to 1.

The compressed data transfer rate soars from 400 megabytes per second (MBps) with LTO-6 to 750 MBps with the new LTO-7 technology. That means users potentially could transfer more than 2.7 TB per hour per drive with LTO-7, up from 1.4 TB per hour per drive with LTO-6.

Paving the way for the higher capacity and data transfer rates were technology enhancements such as stronger magnetic properties and a doubling of the read/write heads in advanced servo format to allow the drive to write more data to the same amount of tape within the cartridge.

The new LTO-7 generation carries forward features of prior generations, including partitioning to enhance file control and space management with the Linear Tape File System (LTFS), hardware-based encryption, and write-once, read-many (WORM) functionality.

An LTO-7 Ultrium drive can read data from LTO-7, LTO-6 and LTO-5 cartridges and write data to an LTO-7 or LTO-6 cartridge.

Vendors who have already announced product support for LTO-7 include Quantum and SpectraLogic. Quantum expects LTO-7 technology to be available in its Scalar i6000 and Scalar i500 libraries in December, with other platforms to follow, and the company currently offers an LTO-7 pre-purchase program for interested customers.

The LTO-7 specification’s 15 TB compressed capacity and 750 MBps data transfer rate are slightly lower than the figures the LTO Program projected last year with the release of its extended roadmap. The September 2014 roadmap indicated the LTO-7 generation would provide a compressed capacity of 16 TB per tape cartridge and a compressed data transfer rate of 788 MBps.

The newly updated LTO Ultrium roadmap lists the following maximum compressed capacities and data transfer rates for future generations:

LTO-8: Up to 32 TB and 1,180 MBps

LTO-9: Up to 62.5 TB and 1,770 MBps

LTO-10: Up to 120 TB and 2,750 MBps

The LTO Program notes that the roadmap “is subject to change without notice and represents goals and objectives only.”

The LTO Program plans to provide further insight into the LTO roadmap and technology at the Storage Decisions conference on November 3-4 in New York, at the SC15 supercomputing conference running November 15-20 in Austin, Texas, and at the Government Video Expo on December 1-3 in Washington, D.C.