The latest LTO Generation 7 tape drives that will soon be
available from IBM, Quantum and HP. Sporting a native capacity of 6TB per
cartridge and a data transfer rate of 300 MB per second, the new LTO 7 drives
and media offer twice the capacity and performance of LTO 6 gear, and present a
bargain for those demanding low-cost, long-term retention of massive datasets.
The plan calls for a doubling of capacity and performance every generation for
LTO 8 through LTO 10.
The main difference with LTO 7 is we have doubled the number of
heads on the drive, with LTO 5 and 6, we had 16 heads, so we were writing 16
channels. With LTO 7, we doubled that to 32 channels, so we are reading and
writing more data.
All that data storage capacity is being gobbled up by customers.
More than 4.5 million LTO drives have shipped since the program began over a
decade ago, and HP is now shipping 7,000 PB of LTO cartridge capacity per
quarter. Much of the demand is coming from the media and entertainment industry,
which seems to love the ease of data access that LTFS, the file system created
to ride atop tapes, brings to the table.
We are seeing huge increases in the content [media and
entertainment companies] are creating with 4K video and now 8K video coming out,
the amount of data they're generating is unbelievable. Before you had one or two
cameras, but now they have GoPro cameras everywhere, and they want to keep that
footage forever basically.
A similar story is playing out in the video surveillance,
healthcare, and oil and gas markets, we're seeing video surveillance everywhere
and data being kept for longer times. And it's no good to have cameras where you
can't see the people, so they're getting more high definition in video
surveillance cameras and more cameras everywhere.
With all that data piling up, the odds of encountering an error
when writing data goes up. But with LTO 7, the error rate has gone down
significantly--to approximately one error in 10 to the 19th bits, which is 100
times better than LTO 6. That is over 4X better than a hard drive. When you have
a big customer who is writing petabytes of data, then it makes a difference to
have an error occurring in 10 to the 19th bit instead of 10 to the 15th bit,
like hard drives have.
All this data storage capacity may be overkill for some, which
generally aren't going to use LTO 7 for long-term storage of unstructured data,
such as video or still images. Instead, typically use LTO drives to back up
their database and applications. But when you can store 15TB of compressed data
on a single $40-LTO 7 cartridge, and that cartridge can sit on a shelf for years
before being called into action, it can be hard to turn down.