Thursday, October 4, 2012

First LTO Generation 6 Tape Drive Announced

IBM had a large storage announcement yesterday that included a wide variety of interesting and exciting news. The overview can be found at: Among them was the first announcement by one of the LTO consortium of the next generation LTO Ultrium Generation 6 tape drive. It is officially named the IBM System Storage TS1060 Tape Drive and is supported in the IBM TS3500 tape library. It is a full height fibre channel tape drive that sports an 8 Gbps dual port connection. The native tape capacity cartridge capacity is 2.5 TB. This compares favorably to the native capacity of 1.5 TB for the comparable LTO Generation 5 tape drive. In addition, a number of other improvements have been made; a faster data rate of 160 MB/second versus 140 MB/second and improved energy efficiency. The new tape drive includes a more efficient compression engine, providing 2.5:1 compression versus 2:1 with LTO Generation 5.  It also supports important LTO features from previous generations; such as tape encryption and the Linear Tape File System. The list price for the new tape drive is $25,855 versus $23,940 for the Generation 5 equivalent, roughly an 8% price increase. Net, the new tape drive provides 67% more native capacity, a 14% greater data rate at an 8% purchase price increase.  First shipment is scheduled for November 9th. The detailed announcement can be found at this link:

Putting this announcement is some perspective; let’s examine what it means to a customer with one petabyte of archive data that needs to be cost-effectively retained. Assuming the data is compressible at the typical rates, with an LTO Ultrium Generation 5 tape drive, it would require 334 tapes (2:1 compression). With LTO Generation 6, the number of tapes drops to 160 (2.5:1 compression). The combination of higher native capacities and improved compression rates reduces the very large amount data to a very manageable number of tape cartridges. In fact, a medium sized tape library could easily accommodate this amount of data in part of a single rack. The new tape drive will be well suited to meet the needs of large and medium sized enterprises wrestling with cost effective storage of large amounts of archive data.
What now? This is likely the tip of the LTO Generation 6 iceberg, and it’s reasonable to expect a plethora of additional tape drive and media announcements over the coming months, as IBM and other LTO tape drive and media suppliers’ role out their offering across a variety of tape libraries at different price, performance and capacity points.