The Linear Tape-Open (LTO) consortium has updated the LTO Ultrium roadmap along with some of the largest tape storage manufacturers (HPE, IBM and Quantum).
After five years of pregnancy, the group added 13th and 14th generations, reaching 288TB and 576TB respectively in uncompressed state (controversially, the tape industry usually adds 150% capacity to produce a second “to” compressed storage).
Therefore, the compressed capacity of Gen13 tapes is expected to reach 720 TB, and Gen 14 tapes – gigantic 1.44 PB. Compared the largest hard drive is currently 22 TB With 100 TB the greatest SSD capacity.
A tape to face severe winds?
The first LTO tape appeared 22 years ago and had a compressed capacity of 200 GB; The latest LTO-9 tape has increased this figure 225 times (45 TB) and shows no signs of slowing down.
Is it true? The transition from LTO-8 to LTO-9 was complicated for legal and technological reasons. The consortium decided unilaterally in 2020 to increase capacity by 50%, instead of doubling capacity.
Given the gap of two to three years between the mass availability of the latest generation of LTO tapes, with LTO-9 being the newest, LTO-14 could be anywhere from now to 15 years, assuming the consortium doesn’t reset the timeline again.
By 2037, other technologies (GOUT, Holographic, Optical, Glass) could mature and evolve to become a much greater threat to the venerable tape. Last year, we wrote that the LTO-10 was supposed to land sooner rather than later – but we are still waiting.
One thing not mentioned in the release is the transfer rate, which is currently 0.75 GBps for LTO-8 and 1 GBps for LTO-9 (both compressed). A 33% generation improvement would bring the transfer speed for LTO-14 to around 4GB / s, which can be very problematic for both archiving and searching given the storage capacity considered.
When it comes to pricing, LTO-9 tapes sell for around $ 8 per TB, with LTO-8 tapes being the cheapest at 4.50 cents per TB and LTO-7 at $ 6.30. Prices can be expected to drop significantly by the time LTO-14 finally hits the market, with under $ 1 being quasi-certain. Readers are likely to continue to be dear; this OWC Mercury Pro LTO-9 tape drive checked in Feb 2022, it sold for over $ 6000.
With this in mind, the tape has its place in a layered storage hierarchy: be it in the cold store (or in the cloud backup or cloud storage), how protection against data loss a combat tool ransomware through an air gap and as a compliance mechanism (eg Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA) thanks to WORM (Write Once, Read Multiple).