Sep 232015

The LTO consortium has announced:

That the LTO Ultrium format generation 7 specifications are now available for licensing by storage mechanism and media manufacturers.

LTO-7 will feature tape capacities of up to 15TB (compressed) and streaming speeds of up to 750MB/s (compressed). LTO is now working off a 2.5:1 compression ratio – so those numbers are (uncompressed) 6TB and 300MB/s.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to launch into a tape is dead article here. Clearly it’s not dead.

That rocket car is impressive. It hit 1,033KM/h – Mach 9.4* – over a 16KM track. There’s no denying it’s fast. There’s also no denying that you couldn’t just grab it and use it to commute to work. And if you could commute to work using it but there happened to be a small pebble on the track, what would happen?

I do look at LTO increasingly and find myself asking … how relevant is it for average businesses? It’s fast and it has high capacity – and this is increasing with the LTO-7 format. Like the rocket car above though, it’s impressive as long as you only want to go in one direction and you don’t hit any bumps.

Back when Tape Was King, a new tape format meant a general rush on storage refresh towards the new tape technology in order to get optimum speed and capacity for a hungry backup environment. And backup environments are still hungry for capacity and speed, but they’re also hungry for flexibility, something that’s not as well provided by tape. Except in very particular conditions, tape is no longer seen as the optimum first landing zone for backup data – and increasingly, it’s not being seen as the ideal secondary landing zone either. More and more businesses are designing backup strategies around minimising the amount of tape they use in their environment. It’s not in any way unusual now to see backup processes designed to keep at least all of the normal daily/weekly cycles on disk (particularly if it’s deduplication storage) and push only the long-term retention backups out to tape. (Tape is even being edged out there for many businesses, but I’ll leave that as a topic for another time.)

Much of the evolution we’ve seen in backup and recovery functionality has come from developing features around high speed random access of backups. Deduplication, highly granular recoveries, mounting from the backup system and even powering on virtual machines from backup storage all require one thing in common: disk. As we’ve come to expect that functionality in data protection products, the utility of tape for most organisations has likewise decreased significantly. Recoverability and even access-without-recovery has become a far more crucial consideration in a data protection environment than the amount of data you can fit onto a cartridge.

I have no doubt LTO-7 will win high-praise from many. But like the high speed rocket car video above, I don’t think it’s your “daily commute” data protection vehicle. It clearly has purpose, it clearly has backing, and it clearly has utility. As long as you need to go in a very straight line, don’t make any changes in direction and don’t attempt to change your speed too much.

As always, plan your data protection environment around the entire end-to-end data protection process, and the utility of that protected data.

* Oops, Mach 0.94. Thanks, Tony. (That’ll teach me to blindly copy the details from the original video description.)

  2 Responses to “LTO-7 and the Streaming Conundrum”

  1. Hi Preston,

    “1,033KM/h – Mach 9.4 – over a 16KM track.”

    Nah, it’s “just” Mach 0.94 not 9.4 sorry.

    But apart from that I totally agree with your observations. Tape’s role is and has been changing for quite some time now but it will never be gone.


    • Hah! I copied that from the video description without blinking an eye. Thanks for correcting the error, Tony!

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