Answers to some frequently asked questions.

What is LTO Technology?

Linear Tape-Open Technology (LTO) is a tape-based data storage solution designed in an “open” format technology that allows manufacturing by any vendor that wishes to license the technology. The “open” nature of LTO technology enables compatibility between different vendors’ offerings and multiple sources of product and media.

What is the Ultrium format?

The Ultrium tape format specification is LTO Technology optimized for high capacity and performance. The Ultrium format uses a single-reel tape cartridge to maximize capacity, and is ideally suited for backup, restore and archive applications. The format is user-agnostic, meaning that it addresses a wide variety of needs from a single-server user to complex multiple server enterprise environments.

Are Ultrium-formatted products compatible with any other storage products that exist today?

LTO-based products are not compatible with non-LTO tape products. The LTO Program created a competitive environment with multiple vendors offering unique features while maintaining data interchange among competing LTO offerings.

How can users confirm data interchangeability among Ultrium format products?

The Ultrium format trademark identifies products that have passed annual third-party compliance verification to ensure compliance with the Ultrium tape format specification. Use of this trademark is granted only after an Ultrium tape format product has passed the compliance verification testing process.

What is the LTO Technology roadmap to future product generations?

The LTO Program provides a roadmap of expected technology and performance targets so that our licensees and their customers can adequately plan their technology offerings and purchasing. The roadmap represents intentions and goals.

Does the Ultrium format have backward compatibility?

LTO Ultrium drives can read data from a cartridge in its own generation and two prior generations. An Ultrium drive can write data to a cartridge in its own generation and to a cartridge from the immediate prior generation (in the prior generation’s format).

For example:

  • An Ultrium format Gen. 7 drive will read and write data on an Ultrium format Gen. 6 cartridge (in the Gen. 6 format) and read data on an Ultrium format Gen. 5 cartridge.

What is an “open tape format specification?”

An open tape format specification is one that is readily available to all potential manufacturers and offers licenses for the IP (Intellectual Property) at a reasonable investment. The competitive environment fostered by multiple sources of product can lead to faster paced innovation and enhancements, and can generally mean competitive prices and greater data compatibility.

What do Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM and Quantum contribute to the LTO Program?

HPE, IBM and Quantum each provide expert knowledge of customer needs and complementary solutions that provide for the best technology while promoting a strong foundation for data interchange.  The companies also provide marketing support for the LTO format and encourage other companies to participate in this tape industry opportunity through the open licensing process.

Why are Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM and Quantum collaborating on this open tape format specification?

Tape industry fragmentation over-complicates buying decisions for customers. With this in mind, HPE, IBM and Quantum are delivering technology that serves multiple needs for data storage  supported by multiple suppliers.

What is the pricing and availability of LTO Technology-based products?

For specific pricing questions, please contact individual sellers. The LTO Program website also contains updated information on LTO-licensed companies and product availability.

What is LTFS?

The Linear Tape File System (LTFS) allows users to view and access tape files just like disk or other removable media files. The LTO partitioning feature (starting with LTO generation 5) separates tape into two partitions, one acting as an index of content on the tape and the other storing the actual data. With LTFS, users are able to access files through any operating system, sort and save data easily.

What are the benefits of LTFS?

Potential user benefits include:

  • Faster access to data, and easier tape file updates with simple drag-and-drop functionality
  • Non-proprietary data format file system
  • Self-describing tape with no application dependencies address long term archive strategies
  • Increased data sharing and use across platforms

Which operating systems does the LTFS support?

LTFS is supported on the following operating systems:

  • Linux (List Versions)
  • Mac (List Versions)
  • Microsoft Windows (List Versions)

How do you obtain the LTFS software?

To download LTFS and OS platform support for standalone LTO Ultrium tape drives, you can visit the website of your chosen vendor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM or Quantum.

Why is it important that LTO Ultrium tape drives offer encryption?

Protecting customer data is a growing business issue, and the cost of recovery continues to get steeper. Data encryption helps the LTO Ultrium tape drive protect customer information and save them from expensive recovery processes later on.

How can users utilize LTO encryption?

Through a key on the encrypting tape drive (this works the same way for decryption). Vendor implementations do differ, however, so please consult with your product guide to confirm the precise configuration of your tape drive’s encryption.

What method of encryption do LTO Ultrium tape drives use?

LTO drives use the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard with Galois/Counter Mod of Operation (or AES256-GCM for short). It is authenticated encryption that achieves very high speeds in hardware with low cost and low latency. AES256-GCM provides both data confidentiality and data integrity in a single, easy-to-use solution.

What are the benefits of drive-level encryption vs. using network appliance or software encryption?

Tape-level encryption allows administrators to better utilize capacity and performance by compressing files prior to encryption. This maximizes tape capacity, and increases backup performance – plus puts less of a drain on host resources. Network appliance encryption creates latencies that slow backup performance and require additional device management.

Do encryption-capable LTO Ultrium drives offer encryption key management?

Key management is not part of the LTO Ultrium drive specification. However, the format works with third-party key management software, which include LTO licensees, tape automation providers, and independent software vendors.

Does encryption cost more?

Individual tape drive vendors establish their own product prices.

Is a special cartridge required?

There are no special LTO cartridge, standard LTO cartridges should be used to write encrypted data. Encryption is an optional feature that LTO vendors can choose to include in their drives, based on their individual product lines.

Can an encrypted tape cartridge be inserted into a drive that does not encrypt or decrypt?

No, the non-encrypting/decrypting drive automatically ejects these cartridges.

Can an encrypted LTO Ultrium cartridge be used in an early-generation drive (i.e. LTO-3, LTO-2 or LTO-1)?

No. Earlier generation drives are designed to reject higher generation cartridges.

Can encrypted (Gen. 4 or later) drives encrypt earlier (LTO-3, LTO-2, LTO-1) cartridges?

No. However, Gen. 4 or later drives can encrypt any Gen. 4 or later cartridges.

Does encryption adversely affect drive performance?

No. Typically, hardware encryption affects less than one-percent of tape drive performance. LTO-encrypting tape drives use GCM for encryption/authentication, which achieves high performance. Each individual tape drive vendor selects its own specific GCM implementation.

Is the whole cartridge encrypted, or are only certain records/files encrypted?

The LTO specifications do not limit this capability. Depending on the key management system and application, both encrypted and unencrypted records may be stored on the same cartridge. Typically, the whole cartridge is encrypted.

LTFS Compliance

Can I get a version of the test suite from LTO so I can perform the tests on my own prior to submission?

A complete detailed test description will be provided with the test instructions, after the CDA is submitted; however, code for the test suite will not be made available.

How many versions of my products do I need to submit, and will a single payment cover the test for each version?

It is suggested that each substantially different version be uniquely specified and submitted for testing. It may make sense to submit versions for different operating systems, if they use different code for managing the on-tape LTFS format.

How long does it take to go through the test process?

Test time may vary based on the number of submissions in the test queue. Estimated test time is 6-8 weeks from submission of the test cartridges.

How much does the test cost?

Up to $10,000.

How often do I need to submit my solution for testing?

It is prudent to submit after your LTFS LTO solution has been substantially updated. The LTFS Compliant Solution Section will list your LTFS LTO product versions that have passed the test, so having the most recent product versions pass and listed will give your customer the information that your product version has successfully completed the testing process.

How long will my test success be posted on the LTO website?

We do not plan to “retire” listing of any LTFS LTO products that have passed the test. We do reserve the right to remove any LTFS LTO product that has later been found to be non-compliant.

What happens if my test submission fails?

If any of the tests fail during the verification process, the LTO program will communicate details of the failure describing the point at which compliance verification found a problem. You will need to examine the failure and correct your implementation, and then resubmit the solution.

Do I have to pay another test fee for resubmittal?

Yes, unless the failure is a minor issue which is quickly and easily corrected.

Does LTO-6 or LTO-7 media need to be LTFS certified in order to be LTFS compatible?

No. LTO-6 and LTO-7 media that have passed LTO compliance verification testing should properly store LTFS data written by software that has been LTFS compliance tested. There is no separate LTFS compliance test for media.