LTO vs. S/DLT: The saga continues

Besides the continuing saga of certification, another topic that just won't die is the issue of whether to choose LTO or S/DLT. Some readers are really struggling with this, it seems, and others have made a choice.

Wesley Busdiecker, who works in the storage and data protection group of a huge pharmaceutical concern, writes that the company recently started using LTO by way of Seagate drives in StorageTek libraries. He says they they're replacing most of their existing DLT gear, but will be keeping some of the older DLT equipment because they can't be readily switched over to LTO -- e.g., the StorageTek 9730s, he says. The goal is to use these older DLT drives to back up less critical and time-sensitive data, like developmental servers. The LTOs will be used for general production purposes.

"We chose LTO because of speed and size" and the multi-generation road map, he writes. "We felt that the DLT format was reaching an end of life -- even though they have the SuperDLT format and have said there will be other increases in performance and density in the future. We felt that the backward compatibility of the SuperDLT was a very small factor, particularly since we are not getting rid of the DLTs completely, just moving them to less critical roles."

So far, he says, they have brought around 10 of the planned 50-plus LTO units online, "and we are very happy to report that we see at the low end two times the performance of the DLTs. It typically runs more toward three or four times the performance," he says. Also, they see fewer fluctuations in tape performance, which also translates to increased throughput.

Tarjei Jensen writes that although his company -- an international conglomerate of oil and gas services, construction and pulp paper producers -- is probably going to standardize on IBM's version of the LTO format, he is still a fan of SDLT. For one, Quantum's SDLT320 cartridges will boost both capacity and bandwidth. "And we do not have to do a forklift upgrade of the media. In other words; investment protection."

For its part, "the next LTO drive will mean that we will have to say goodbye to your tape cartridges if what I have read is correct. That is not a wonderful proposition. It is vital to know about the interoperability problems for those who choose LTO because they need to have an opinion on who will be around in the next couple of years. In my opinion - as of now -- both HP and Seagate are dodgy as vendors. Both may decide that tape drives are not core business."

Well, everyone's entitled to their opinion, of course. And, in all fairness, I should note that Tarjei wrote this in late April, before the new merged HP/Compaq announced its detailed product roadmap. Since then, HP has made it clear that storage is a strategic business for it and that the company will support both SDLT and LTO formats. Perhaps that's the wisest thing for a vendor to do until the market shakes out.

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