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Pros and Cons of Linear Tape Open (LTO) for Long-term Content Archiving

Pros and Cons of Linear Tape Open (LTO) for Long-term Content Archiving

Originally developed in the late 1990s, LTO (Linear Tape Open) is a magnetic tape data storage technology that offers extensive storage for a variety of applications comprising, long-term archive, data back-up, high-capacity data transfer, and offline storage almost over the past two decades.

The LTO technology has shown vast up gradation with new features added to its subsequent generations (1 – 8) including write-once, read-many (WORM); data encryption; and partitioning to enable a Linear Tape File System (LTFS) that aids in enhancing its overall performance in terms of storage capacity, speed, data transfer rate (MBps), digital encoding methods and compression techniques.

An overview of the LTO generations is depicted hereunder:

LTO Type Year of Introduction Generation Native Capacity Compressed Capacity Compression Ratio Data Native Transfer Rate Compressed Data Transfer Rate

LTO-1

2000 1 100 GB up to 200 GB 2:1 20 MBps

40 MBps

LTO-2

2003 2 200 GB 400 GB 2:1 40 MBPS

80 MBPS

LTO-3

Late 2004 3 400 GB 800 GB 2:1 80 MBPS

160 MBPS

LTO-4

2007 4 800 GB 1.6 TB 2:1 120 MBPS 240 MBPS

LTO-5

2010 5 1.5 TB 3 TB 2:1 140 MBPS 280 MBPS

LTO-6

2012 6 2.5 TB 6.25 TB 2.5:1 160 MBPS 400 MBPS
LTO-7 2015 7 6 TB 15 TB 2.5:1 300 MBPS

700 MBPS

LTO-8

2017 8 12 TB 30 TB 2.5:1 360 MBPS

750 MBPS

Pros & Cons of data storage on LTO

Pros:

Storage Capacity & Costs

Archival on LTO for industries dealing with huge data size costs cheaper & effective as compared to storage on internal hard drives. The LTO Data Archival has shown rapid growth in sectors like media, entertainment, data analytics, science where there is a continuous flow of data throughout the operations. With the advent of the latest generation LTO-8 (as depicted above), one can store 12TB of uncompressed data @360 MBPS data transfer rate and 30TB of uncompressed data @ 750 MBPS on a single taped costing about $100.

Life Span/Durability

The LTO cartridges offer extensive lifespan with an average cycle of 30 years along with high-end backup & recovery throughout its life cycle.

Data Mobility

Transferring voluminous data through networks is an expensive & time-consuming process and may also lead to data crash /corruption in cases of any link or interoperability failures. Also, there are probabilities of unauthorized data access over the internet acting as a great threat towards the confidentiality of data.

LTO, on the other hand, provides an easy & rational means of data exchange physically over tape from one location to another.

Technology Upgrade

The LTO technology has shown remarkable growth since years with new releases every 2 to 3 years highlighting expansion in storage capability, increased data transfer rate & advancement of data compression & encryption solutions.

The LTO Program group has laid a product timeline with new releases up to LTO-12 delivering incremented storage capacity and performance growth.

Disaster Recovery

As backup data stored on LTO are preserved offline, the data is safe from any sort of virus attacks or malware and whole data can be restored as per necessity & requirements.

Cons:

Operational costs

The overall operational cost in Tape based archival is comparatively high as the cost of LTO drives that are used for digital recording in order to store data on magnetic tapes, range from $2000-$3500 and that may rise up for enterprise versions.

Keeping up with the technology

LTO1 was introduced in the year 2000, 12 years later LTO 6 was introduced, so a new version every second year. Typically what happens is that LTO’s are migrated every second generation since the writer and the reader only support 2 or 3 generations of tapes. If we record on LTO 6 and leave it on the shelf for 60 years there will for the guarantee not be a reading device available and with a very high probability, most of the data will be gone.

Tapes are not random access like hard drives

The LTO drive that does a digital recording of data on magnetic tape is only capable of moving tape in a single direction. As such, only sequential access storage can be possible in tapes. This adversely affects the speed of storage & retrieval of data due to its constraints of linear technology.

Due to limitations of linear technology, if new data is inserted/existing data modified in between leads to erasure of data beyond the point of insertion or modification. Data has to be necessarily added to tape right from the point of last written sector to avoid any deletion of existing data. This sometimes leads to data replication and also minimizes the optimal use of storage space of LTO tapes.

Conclusion:

Whether LTO and LTFS are optimum for storage depends on the amount of data that need to be archived and also their frequency of access by end users. There is no doubt that LTO is an ideal media for the offline preservation and protection of data for completed projects. LTO’s exclusive features make it too competent for long-term data retention and content archive applications.

LTO-tape data backup seems to be more consistent, durable, and cost-efficient for data archiving in long-term supported by an offsite tape vaulting service.

LTO Tapes serve as a better option for archiving huge amount of data in long-term especially for those industries that produce a substantial amount of data all through its lifecycle as media, entertainment, survey, medical records, verdict, library etc.

Whereas in-house disk system-or even cloud storage-can work efficiently for data that needs to be accessed frequently under low access latencies. Also, the ability for random access & modifications of existing data stored in disk minimizes the chances of data replication.

Future of Linear Tape-Open (LTO)

Future of Linear Tape-Open (LTO)

In today’s scenario, so much content is being produced that handling it is the biggest challenge every company is facing. It won’t be wrong to say that every moment becomes a data for further reference from time to time. And where there is data, there is a need for its storage and preservation. The importance is one notch higher in broadcasting and media industry. There is already an ocean of heritage content to be taken care of and the volume is only increasing day by day. Innovators, over a period of time, have come up with various technologies to manage and optimize content to its best possible condition.

It all started in late 1990’s when technology providers Hewlett Packard, IBM Corporation and Quantum Corporation developed and finally introduced the first generation of Linear Tape-Open (LTO), a magnetic tape storage technology in the year 2000 which could hold 100 GB of data in a cartridge. The standard form factor of LTO technology is known by the name Ultrium which is highly scalable and adaptable on multi-platforms like MAC, Linux, and Windows.

LTO has proved revolutionary in terms of data storage with its outstanding performance, capacity, and reliability, combining the advantages of linear multi-channel, data compression, track layout and error correction.
Due to its high success outcome and market demand, regular enhancements have been done and 2017 could see the launch of its 8th generation which can hold data up to 12 TB in a cartridge of the same size. Although, between generations, there are strict compatibility rules clearly defining which drives and cartridges can be used together.

WHY HAS THE INDUSTRY TURNED TO LTO?

The word ‘Tape’ may sound old school but breakthrough enhancement features have made LTO the most suited backup storage medium. Every company needs a storage solution which is high on speed and capacity and has adequate protection levels. Content is available in various forms. LTO Ultrium, being an open format technology provides its users to source data from multiple platforms and store it in a very convenient and easily restored format.
LTO, with each version, have come up with better speed resulting in quick access and recovery. Capacity to store data has increased manifolds. Functionalities like WORM and data encryption provide adequate protection of the valuable data thus by preventing it from getting tampered.

LTO based archiving also proves cost-effective in terms of reduced energy bills and also since storage capacity is ever increasing with each new generation thereby further reducing the cost.

WHAT DOES LTO-8 OFFER?

LTO-8 was recently revealed in 2017, two years after LTO-7. It is obvious to get attracted to the new improved version but many factors go into this big decision making.If we look at the specifications, LTO-8 offers 12 TB of raw data capacity which is 50% more than what is provided by its previous version. The head channel count also goes up to 32 from 16. The compressed transfer rate has also increased from 750 MB/s to 1180 MB/s. The encryption and WORM feature remains the same.

A new feature which aces up LTO-8 is its ability to increase the cartridge capacity of LTO-7 by 50%. LTO-8 drives can also read and write to LTO-7 tapes thus by saving on the huge investments already made.2

So, before making any decision to consider the switchover, a lot of factors have to be considered in terms of budget, usage, last upgraded time and also to what extent the capabilities of new tapes can be leveraged.

To sum up, we can say that when we think of tapes as a storage and recovery solution, we are focussing on future demands of the ever-increasing volume of data which can be stored and accessed in an environment which is secured as well as cost-effective. And LTO, with its roadmap and growth capabilities, promises to be able to endure Big Data challenges with its continuous breakthroughs.