Tape Technology: Is It Time for an Upgrade? Explore the Benefits of LTO-9 Technology

By Matt Ninesling
Director of Hardware Engineering, Spectra Logic

Tape technology has long been a reliable choice for data storage and backup, but how do you know when it’s time for an upgrade? For organizations dealing with 100+ tape cartridges, delaying an overdue upgrade of your tape environment can hinder efficient data management and bloat storage costs. While media represents almost 50% of your tape storage costs over the library’s lifetime, upgrading to the latest tape drive technology is a fraction of the library’s cost and can keep media costs in check.

In this article, we will help you determine if it’s time to upgrade your tape technology, discuss some of the lesser-known benefits of upgrading, and show how Spectra can help you protect your existing investment with the lowest-cost storage medium available.

Indications that it’s time to upgrade your tape technology

1. Running out of slots and frequent media ejections

One indication that it may be time to upgrade your tape technology is when you start to run out of library slots and find yourself ejecting media more frequently than desired. This is a clear sign that your current tape technology is no longer meeting your growing data storage capacity needs. Upgrading to a newer generation of tape technology will allow you to store more data in the same footprint without needing to add tape slot licenses.

2. Aging technology

Another factor to consider is the age of your current technology. If your drives and media are approaching 10 years old, typically LTO generations 6 and under, an upgrade is recommended. Upgrading to the latest LTO generation provides a tech platform that you can rely on for the next 7-10 years, future-proofing your data storage infrastructure to achieve compatibility with ongoing advancements in tape technology.

3. Bloated media expenses

For organizations storing 500TB or more on older tape technology, there is a real cost to using older LTO tape. If your media budget is increasing or unacceptably high, it could be due to the high cost per TB of older, less dense tape technology, and a definite signal to upgrade.

4. Extending backup windows

Are you struggling to meet backup windows? Limitations with your current tape technology are the likely culprit. Technology evolves rapidly, and older tape technology may not provide the speed modern businesses require. For example, LTO-9 can transfer data at a rate nearly three times faster than LTO-5.

If any of these categories describe you, it’s time to reevaluate your data storage and backup strategy.

Benefits of upgrading to LTO-9

As the latest generation of LTO tape technology, LTO-9 provides the highest per-cartridge capacity, the greatest performance, and the most advanced TMR (Tunneling Magnetoresistance) head on the market. These features translate into several functional benefits that can significantly enhance your data storage and backup capabilities:

  • Less handling and decreased management costs: LTO-9 boasts the best capacity in the market, with 18TB of storage space available on a single tape. This means more data in fewer library slots, fewer physical tapes to track and manage, and reduced cost of vault storage for organizations ejecting media and storing tape offsite. You can store more data in a smaller physical footprint, which translates to cost savings in terms of storage infrastructure, licensing, and maintenance.
  • Extreme cost savings: Consolidating your data onto fewer tapes reduces your overall media cost. Currently, LTO-9 media offers a cost-per-TB savings of nearly 40% over LTO-6 and 56% over LTO-5. Additionally, with a decreasing cost per terabyte over the first three years after launch, LTO-9 will soon be the most cost-effective tape media available.
  • Shorter backup windows: LTO-9 offers impressive speeds and feeds, allowing faster backup and restore times. Full-height LTO-9 drives reach transfer speeds of 400 MB/s native and up to 900 MB/s compressed (2:5:1). A single LTO-9 tape drive can write up to 3.6 TB/h.
  • Less downtime: the most advanced TMR (Tunneling Magnetoresistance) head on the market offers increased reliability, resulting in fewer rewrite errors and ensuring the integrity of your data. An LTO-9 cartridge with 18 TB of capacity is about five times more reliable than an 18 TB HDD (LTO Program).
  • Lower support costs: Unlike older tape technologies, LTO-9 drives are currently in their prime. This means you won’t have to worry about extended support contracts or the potential obsolescence of your tape drives. With LTO-9, you can enjoy the full support and benefits of the latest tape technology without the added cost and uncertainty of extended support contracts.

How Spectra can help you with the upgrade process

Spectra offers a seamless upgrade path to meet your evolving needs. Spectra’s tape libraries are fully certified for LTO tape technology. Moreover, Spectra tape libraries are qualified with all major ISV software packages, ensuring compatibility and smooth integration into your existing infrastructure.

To simplify the migration of existing data, you can keep your old drives to read data. By creating a partition specifically for migration, you can transfer your data without disrupting your business operations.

To ensure optimal performance, Spectra also offers Spectra Certified Media. Rigorously tested and designed to work seamlessly with our tape libraries, Spectra Certified Media proactively monitors the health of each tape to reduce rewrites, improve write performance and decrease wear to tape drives. 

Contact us today to guide you through the upgrade process and unlock the full potential of your data.

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