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Storage rival to hard drive hits snag as 144TB tapes emerge

(Image credit: Shutterstock / kubais)

The Linear Tape Open consortium has quietly amended the LTO Ultrium roadmap to reflect the recent change in the native capacity of LTO-9, which dropped from 24TB to 18TB, matching that of the biggest hard disk drive on the market.

“In order not to delay availability of the latest generation, the LTO Program elected to balance the cost and benefit of technology within the specification by offering an 18TB tape cartridge – a 50% increase in capacity from the previous generation – to address the current market need for storage space," an LTO spokesperson told TechRadar Pro.

"Doubling capacity approximately every two years is still technically feasible for LTO tape technology and the LTO Program anticipates being able to return to that pattern in future generations.”

Tape storage

The fact that the capacity was reduced to prevent any further delay could indicate an unexpected temporary snag that made it more difficult to reach higher capacities or suggest that hard disk drives will grow at a much slower pace.

After all,18TB hard drives have only just been launched, with 20TB hard disk drives expected to land in December 2020.

The new capacities for LTO Gen 10, 11 and 12 currently stand at 36TB, 72TB and 144TB, instead of 48TB, 96TB and 192TB; compressed ratios of 2.5:1 apply, providing capacities of up to 360TB.

LTO-9 drive performance also increases by 30 percent to 400MBps native, up from 360MBps. "Although the transfer rate is not part of the format specifications, and this is still being finalized, the LTO Program is expecting ~10% improvement on LTO-8’s full height native transfer rate of 360 MB/sec." said a spokesperson for the LTO program

A 50% capacity improvement is essentially what LTO Type M media delivered when it was introduced for LTO generation 7 cartridges, introduced as “an alternative offered for Gen 8 due to the shortage of LTO-8 media during its launch”.

Data capacity jumped from 6TB to 9TB, but LTO denied that the same “trick” was used on LTO-8 drives to produce a new type of LTO Type M tape.