Recently, the LTO Program published a tape media shipment report that showed more than 385, 000 petabytes of total data capacity has been shipped since the introduction of LTO Ultrium cartridges in 2000. That’s nearly a half a zettabyte! A half zettabyte is a lot of data – so much data, in fact, that it would equal the size of about two thousand trillion books! The report goes on to state that the amount of LTO tape capacity shipped increased in 2015. What is behind this and which trends and applications are part of the storage strategy for tape’s use? Read on.
Let’s look at where the LTO technology roadmap is today. An LTO generation 7 cartridge can hold up to 15TB of compressed data. That’s the equivalent of about 75 LTO generation 1 tape cartridges. That’s giant storage! And, an LTO-7 tape drive has a compressed data transfer rate of up to 750 megabytes per second. That’s nearly 20 times faster than LTO gen-1. The LTO technology accomplishments are clearly a “do more with less” stratagem. With each generation cartridge, capacity and data rate speeds are greatly increased allowing the user to store more in less space by consuming fewer cartridges. In addition, LTO users can be more productive by having faster tape drives thereby needing fewer drives. The capacity of cartridges shipped is increasing while customers need fewer tapes and drives to get the same or more work completed. These continual increases in LTO technology capacity and speed are essential to help manage organizations ever growing data reserves. Users can reclaim slots in tape libraries, reduce floor space consumption and get jobs completed more quickly and economically.
Will the Technology Leaps Continue?
According to a recent technology roadmap report by the Information Storage Industry Consortium (INSIC), “the current rate of HDD (hard disk drive) capacity scaling is much lower than historical rates. Looking to the future, there is considerable uncertainty regarding future scaling rates of HDD due to the challenges associated with overcoming the super-paramagnetic effect and the uncertainty over the timing and the eventual success of the introduction of new technologies needed to continue HDD scaling. In contrast, state of the art tape drives operate at areal densities that are more than two orders of magnitude smaller than the latest HDDs. It should therefore be possible to continue scaling tape technology at historical rates for at least the next decade.” That is, the tape technology roadmap outlook is very bright. See here for the full LTO Technology Roadmap.
How is Tape Being Used Now and for Tomorrow?
As stated in the INSIC Systems and Applications report, the inherent, fundamental advantages of tape are its low acquisition cost, low cooling requirements, excellent footprint, scalability and reliability. Other attributes that can be significant are tape’s offline data protection and portability. Tape provides offline and offsite storage where it can’t be easily accessed by hackers, viruses or primary site disasters. Tape is also very green: a tape drive has extremely low power consumption and a cartridge on a shelf draws no power!
The INSIC report points out that tape’s role is still very strong for backup , and is prominent now and the future for the protection and archive data storage tiers for market segments that include HPC/Scientific, Cloud, Media & Entertainment, Healthcare, Video Surveillance, File Archiving for Traditional IT, Oil & Gas/Seismic and many more. Solutions for these markets typically involve tiered storage that includes flash, disk, and tape, but the large amounts of storage requirements for each of these segments makes tape an essential part of a long term storage strategy.