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Storage rival to hard drive hits snag as 144TB tapes emerge

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The Linear Tape Open consortium has quietly amended the LTO Ultrium roadmap to reflect the recent change in the native capacity of LTO-9, which dropped from 24TB to 18TB, matching that of the biggest hard disk drive on the market.

“In order not to delay availability of the latest generation, the LTO Program elected to balance the cost and benefit of technology within the specification by offering an 18TB tape cartridge – a 50% increase in capacity from the previous generation – to address the current market need for storage space," an LTO spokesperson told TechRadar Pro.

"Doubling capacity approximately every two years is still technically feasible for LTO tape technology and the LTO Program anticipates being able to return to that pattern in future generations.”

Tape storage

The fact that the capacity was reduced to prevent any further delay could indicate an unexpected temporary snag that made it more difficult to reach higher capacities or suggest that hard disk drives will grow at a much slower pace.

After all,18TB hard drives have only just been launched, with 20TB hard disk drives expected to land in December 2020.

The new capacities for LTO Gen 10, 11 and 12 currently stand at 36TB, 72TB and 144TB, instead of 48TB, 96TB and 192TB; compressed ratios of 2.5:1 apply, providing capacities of up to 360TB.

LTO-9 drive performance also increases by 30 percent to 400MBps native, up from 360MBps. "Although the transfer rate is not part of the format specifications, and this is still being finalized, the LTO Program is expecting ~10% improvement on LTO-8’s full height native transfer rate of 360 MB/sec." said a spokesperson for the LTO program

A 50% capacity improvement is essentially what LTO Type M media delivered when it was introduced for LTO generation 7 cartridges, introduced as “an alternative offered for Gen 8 due to the shortage of LTO-8 media during its launch”.

Data capacity jumped from 6TB to 9TB, but LTO denied that the same “trick” was used on LTO-8 drives to produce a new type of LTO Type M tape.

Desire Athow

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Then followed a weekly tech column in a local business magazine in Mauritius, a late night tech radio programme called Clicplus and a freelancing gig at the now-defunct, Theinquirer, with the legendary Mike Magee as mentor. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.