Demystifying LTO-8: Part I

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With the all the recent news about LTO-8 and a new media called LTO-7 Type M media, this blog series is intended to break down the details surrounding this new tape technology and provide some clarity to users looking to learn more. From drives to media, there are some significant changes from previous LTO generations, making LTO-8 and LTO-7 Type M the technology of the future.

LTO-7 Type M Drive Image

LTO-8: What You Need to Know

What is LTO-8?
LTO-8 is the latest tape drive and media technology enabling:

  • Double the capacity of LTO-7 – now 12TB native per tape and up to 30TB compressed (2.5x compression assumed)
  • 20% higher throughput per drive – up to 360MB/s native and up to 750 MB/s compressed data. (Half Height drives will be at 300MB/s)
  • Backward read/write compatibility to LTO-7
  • New to LTO-8, a special LTO-7 Type M media is also available at 9TB native, providing users an intermediate option.

What about the tradition of reading/writing back one generation and reading back two?

  • Most previous LTO releases have been able to read back two generations, but a significant technology change with LTO-8 required limiting read/write back to one generation only. The LTO-8 drive reads and writes LTO-7 tapes but will not accept an LTO-6 tape at all.

What is a TMR head?

  • As with any storage technology, a plateau is eventually reached where further investment in the current technology only results in small density improvements and it becomes time to switch to a newer technology allowing for substantial growth.
  • Tunneling Magnetoresistance [TMR] heads allow significantly more bit density on the tape and allow for more and more tightly spaced tracks.
  • TMR heads, though, need to be closer to the tape, and are, therefore, more easily damaged by rougher tapes used in older generations.

LTO-7 Type M Media at 9TB:

What does LTO-7 Type M mean?

  • The last two digits on a tape barcode generally indicate the generation of the tape: L7 for LTO-7, L8 for LTO-8. For LTO-7 Type M tapes, the last two digits on the barcode will be LTO-7 Type M and indicate that an LTO-7 tape was initialized and formatted for 9TB and can only be used in an LTO-8 tape drive.

Why is the LTO-7 Type M technology important?

  • Normally, when a new generation like LTO-8 is released, customers have to use complicated size and $/GB planning to determine when the right time is to switch, since media is usually more expensive for the latest technology.
  • LTO-7 Type M lets you get 50% more capacity out of existing LTO-7 tapes and brings immediate value without having to wait for the latest generation of media to drop to an equivalent $/GB of the last generation.
  • This LTO-7 Type M option represents an immediate 33% cost savings to customers.

Can any LTO-7 tape cartridge be formatted to LTO-7 Type M so it stores 9TB instead of 6TB?

  • Formatting a NEW LTO-7 tape to an LTO-7 Type M tape involves a special format process on an unused LTO-7 tape in a specially configured LTO-8 drive. Spectra will be performing this process, thereby producing LTO-7 Type M media for sale.
  • A new barcode must be applied so the library and ISV can identify the tape.

In part two of the “Demystifying LTO-8” blog series, we’ll cover when users should consider implementing LTO-8 tape technology into their data centers. Keep an eye out for part two, and other blogs from the series on our corporate blog page, and by following the hashtag #LTO8FAQ on social media.