LTO-6 tape with up to 6.25TB capacity ships

Capacity has more than doubled and throughput's boosted by more than 40%

Tape media and drive companies have begun shipping the sixth generation of linear-tape open (LTO) technology, which like previous generation upgrades, significantly increases the capacity and data throughput capabilities for backup and archive applications.

In separate announcements over the past week, Tandberg Data, Imation and Fujifilm announced shipments of LTO-6 cartridge and drive products. The new LTO-6 drives offer 400MBps performance or, using a 2.5:1 compression ratio, up to 1.4TB of data transferred per hour.

System companies Hewlett Packard, IBM and Quantum also announced Monday that Fujifilm, Hitachi, Maxell, Imation, Sony and TDK have completed their testing of the technology, meaning they can use the LTO Ultrium generation 6 format trademarks for resale of the products.

LTO-6 cartridges can hold up to 2.5TB natively or 6.25TB of compressed data. Compared with previous generation LTO-5 drives and cartridges, the new LTO-6 cartridges more than double capacity (with compression) and offer a 40% performance boost. LTO-5 held up to 1.5TB natively and 3TB of compressed data. The LTO-5 drives had a native data transfer rate of 200MBps or up to 1TB per hour with 2:1 compression.

LTO-6 tapes also include encryption and WORM (write-once, read many) capabilities that were also offered with the past two generations of LTO tape drives and media.

As with LTO-5, the LTO-6 format includes partitioning functionality, enabling users to present a tape-based file system with the use of the Linear Tape File System (LTFS). LTFS, an open file system released in 2010, takes advantage of the partitioning feature that became available with LTO-5 technology to provide file system access to tape data and easier management such as "drag and drop" and search functionality.

LTFS itself is a file system with a POSIX interface that applications such as File Explorer can access. A user can then add a network-attached storage stack (such as NFS and/or CIFS) on top of LTFS, allowing seamless access to files from any desktop. LTFS is enabled by the dual partitioning capability of LTO-5, and now LTO-6.

For example, Partition 0 would hold the tape's content index, which can be more quickly accessed. The second partition, Partition 1, holds the content of the tape. The partitions allow users to view that data without having to read through an entire tape. Once the desired data is located in the index, a simple copy command can be used to move the data from the tape to, for instance, a disk drive.

LTFS is supported by major tape vendors, including IBM, HP, Quantum and Oracle, as well as the LTO Consortium.

As with previous generations, LTO-6 drives will provide backward compatibility with the ability to read and write LTO-5 cartridges and read LTO-4 generation cartridges, helping to preserve media investments and ease implementation.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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