All you need to know about the Linear Tape Open (LTO Ultrium) Backup Storage Technology

Imagine a situation in which you arrive at your office and boot up your system only to find that the data has been corrupted or deleted. Now imagine an even worse situation in which the data is gone and you realise you have no spare stored somewhere safe. Hey while we are at it lets completely cripple the company by adding a lethal virus that attacks a number of systems belonging to your colleagues, supervisors and employees destroying all work files.  Panic starts to creep in and you are a loss at what can be done. Obviously you are going to call your IT manager and hope that he can somehow someway recover the lost data while secretly everyone is cursing themselves for not saving their respective work files in multiple locations for safe keeping. You go over the effects that this will have on the company, how much of an advantage it would give your competitors and how much your own company’s productivity will fall.

 

History

Now what you might be thinking at this point is that what kind of company in today’s world would not backup their work files? Well you see the above situation might be unrealistic in today’s world but it was a major concern a decade or two ago. In fact it was this concern that gave rise to the data storage market. With the advancement of IT technology and the success of the World Wide Web there was also a rise in hackers, viruses and malicious software. Many companies considered the exact situation mentioned above. Realising the importance of backing up important files, the race for developing backup data storage devices began.

There is a difference when I say the backup data storage devices. These devices are mainly used for baking up important information and for archival purposes. If you just consider storage devices than they were already present in computers and other devices. In fact these devices have a history dating back to the 1920s. For example the magnetic tape was designed in the 1920s although it was used for storage later in the 1950s. Also another example is the Selectron Tube which was engineered in 1946 and had the ability to store up to 512 bytes of data. There is a rich history of the storage industries with numerous devices including punch cards, punch tape, laser disks, floppy disks, magnetic tape and hard disks. For me the floppy disk is one storage device that I cannot ever forget. So popular in the 1990s I still remember inserting it into my computer to save some important word pad files.

 

Backup Tapes

Now let us come back from the trip to memory lane and look at a newer storage technology developed primarily for   I am sure you can guess what I am talking about since the there is a big title on the top of the page. Yes the Tape Drives. People today are thanking the previous generations for developing the magnetic tape in the 1920s as the tape drives are devices that read and write data on to a magnetic tape. Unlike a conventional disk drive that stores random data, the tape drives record data sequentially on to the magnetic tape. The advantage of this is that once the tape is in place than the data can be streamed very quickly however the disadvantage is that the tape need to be winded to a particular point to read any particular part of data. Some popular tapes are listed below:

  • Quarter Inch Cartridge
  • Linear Tape Open (LTO)
  • Digital Linear Tape (DLT) & Super Digital Linear Tape (SDLT)
  • Digital Data Storage (DDS)
  • Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT)

All of the above mentioned tapes gained popularity during the period between the 1980s and early 2000s. The storage capacity offered by these tape drives range from a few megabytes to the terabyte range.  You can imagine how much technology has advanced for this range to be as vast as mentioned. New technological advances have enabled brand new generations of tape drives to come out every few years. Coming back to the situation mentioned at the start of this text, it is obvious that a backup storage technology should have been implemented by the company. Let us let them off the hook a bit and say that they manage to recover their data. Still the importance of backing up work files has been understood by the company. Thus let us consider that they decide to invest in tape drives. Another question immediately arises that is which tape? Again some of you may already be able to tell that I am now about to talk about none other than the Linear Tape Open technology.

 

Linear Tape Open Backup Technology

The following text will focus on the technical details of the LTO tape technology and its 6 generations. To make for quick reading the specifications and different brands available have been fitted into tables. Now let us continue on to the backup technology.

IBM, Seagate and Hewlett-Packard were the ones that came together and made the LTO Consortium. Developed as an open standard, the LTO tape technology like most tape drives involved recording on a magnetic tape. Originally it was planned to release two forms of the format. One would be a half-inch tape on a single reel and the other would be an 8mm tape on dual reels. The second was called Accelis and was meant to be used for low latency however due to a number of reasons it was never marketed. The first was given the name Ultrium and is the format that became famous for its high capacity. The LTO Ultrium technology kept gaining fame over the years and now is the best selling super tape in the super tape market segment. Development of the technology began in the 1990s and the first official tape was released in the new millennium i.e. in the year 2000. Since then 6 generations of the technology have been released. One must look at these generations individually to see their various perks and where they are best suited to be used. Let us go in chronological order.

 

LTO Ultrium 1

The LTO Ultrium 1 also known as The LTO-1 Backup Tape was released in the year 2000 and became an instant success due to its large storage capacity and fast transfer speeds. The encoding done on the tape utilised the 1.7 version of the Run Length Limited coding technique (RLL 1,7). The tape contains a native storage capacity of 100 GB and a data transfer rate of 20MB/s. You may be thinking that this is not a lot but you must consider that going back 10-12 years it was considered to have the same value as a terabyte range. The overall specifications of the tape are summarised in the table below.

 

Tape Technology

LTO Ultrium 1 (LTO-1 Backup Tape)

Native Capacity

100 GB

Compression ratio

2:1

Data Transfer Rate

20 MB/s

Tape Length

609 m

Tape Thickness

8.9 um

Tape Tracks

384

Cartridge Memory

4 KB

Encoding

RLL 1,7

Write Elements

8

Archival Life

30 years

If you are interested in the different brands of LTO-1 tapes available in the market then have a look at the following table for some important brands and their part numbers.

LTO-1 Backup Tape

 

Manufacturing Brand

Part

HP

C7971A

SONY

LTX100G

MAXELL

22894800

IMATION

41089

FUJI

P10DDLNA00A

QUANTUM

MR-L1MQN-01

IBM

08L9120

 

LTO Ultrium 2

The second generation of the LTO Ultrium technology featured double the storage capacity and double the transfer speed. The LTO-2 Backup Tape was released nearly 3 years after the first generation in the year 2003. The storage capacity offered by the LTO-2 tape is 200 GB uncompressed and 400 GB compressed. The transfer rate is 40MB/s making it ideal for the storage needs of small data centres and businesses. The tape has got good durability and a long archival life making it perfect for backup functions. A more detailed specification list is given in the table below followed by the major brands of LTO-2 Backup tapes in the following table.

 

Tape Technology

LTO Ultrium 2 (LTO-2 Backup Tape)

Native Capacity

200 GB

Compression ratio

2:1

Data Transfer Rate

40 MB/s

Tape Length

609 m

Tape Thickness

8.9 um

Tape Tracks

512

Cartridge Memory

4 KB

Encoding

RLL 0, 13/11;PRML

Write Elements

8

Archival Life

30 years

 

LTO-2 Backup Tape

 

Manufacturing Brand

Part

HP

C7972A

SONY

LTX200G

MAXELL

183850

IMATION

16598-B

FUJI

26220001

QUANTUM

MR-L2MQN-01-B

IBM

08L9870

DELL

340-8701

SUN

003-0508-01

 

LTO Ultrium 3

With technology and the world as a whole advancing at a fast rate it became apparent that the new LTO tapes could not just have more storage capacity and faster speeds. One such thing was security which was starting to become a major issue. The LTO-3 Backup Tape was released in the year 2005 and promised additional features on top of higher performance. The storage capacity was increased to 400 GB and the transfer rate increased to 80 MB/s. The tape offered the all new WORM (Write Once Read Many) feature which prevented data to be accidentally overwritten and deleted. Overall the tape is still quite popular and is ideal for small to medium business centres. The long storage life of approximately 30 years, good security and affordable prices make the LTO-3 tapes a must have for any medium sized businesses. For a full list of specs consult the table below and if you wish to see the brands available then look at the following table.

 

Tape Technology

LTO Ultrium 3 (LTO-3 Backup Tape)

Native Capacity

400 GB

Compression ratio

2:1

Data Transfer Rate

80 MB/s

Tape Length

680 m

Tape Thickness

8 um

Tape Tracks

704

Cartridge Memory

4 KB

WORM Capability

Yes

Encoding

RLL 0, 13/11;PRML

Write Elements

16

Archival Life

30 years

 

LTO-3 Backup Tape

 

Manufacturing Brand

Part

HP

C7973A

SONY

LTX400G

MAXELL

183900

IMATION

17532

FUJI

P10DDLQA10A

QUANTUM

MR-L3MQN-02

IBM

24R1922

DELL

0HC591-B

 

 

LTO Ultrium 4

Moving on we have the 4th generation in the LTO family which was released in 2007. The LTO-4 Backup Tape has a native capacity of 800 GB and due to the compression ratio of 2:1, it can be increased to 1.6 TB as long as the data is in compressed format. The data transfer rate is 120 MB/s which is a 50% increase from its predecessor. The format retained the WORM capability of the previous generation and introduced the all knew encryption capability for increased safety and security.  With a long archival life, good durability and high performance capabilities, the LTO-4 tape is a good investment for medium sized businesses and can meet their storage needs. The specifications in detail are as follows:

 

Tape Technology

LTO Ultrium 4 (LTO-4 Backup Tape)

Native Capacity

800 GB

Compression ratio

2:1

Data Transfer Rate

120 MB/s

Tape Length

820 m

Tape Thickness

6.6 um

Tape Tracks

896

Cartridge Memory

8 KB

WORM Capability

Yes

Encryption Capability

Yes

Encoding

RLL 0, 13/11;PRML

Write Elements

16

Archival Life

30 years

 

This popular format is available in a number of popular brands. Some examples are given in the following table.

LTO-4 Backup Tape

 

Manufacturing Brand

Part

HP

C7974A

SONY

LTX800W

MAXELL

183906-B

IMATION

26592

FUJI

P10DDLSA00A

QUANTUM

MR-L4MQN-01

IBM

95P4436

DELL

341-4640

 

 

LTO Ultrium 5

You should be getting the trend now that newer versions of the LTO tapes contained increased storage capacity, faster speeds and more features. The same goes for the LTO-5 Backup Tape as it offers a native capacity of 1.5 TB that can be increased to 3 TB if the data is in compressed format. The transfer speed takes another major jump and is increased to 140MB/s. The tape like the previous 2 generations has got a WORM capability. The new feature introduced with this generation is the Linear Tape File System (LTFS) that enables users to use the tape just like any other USB or flash drive. The tape possesses good encryption capability, good durability and a long storage life making it perfect for use in medium to large organisations. The details on the specifications are given in the table below:

 

Tape Technology

LTO Ultrium 5 (LTO-5 Backup Tape)

Native Capacity

1.6 TB

Compression ratio

2:1

Data Transfer Rate

140 MB/s

Tape Length

846 m

Tape Thickness

6.4 um

Tape Tracks

1280

Cartridge Memory

8 KB

WORM Capability

Yes

Encryption Capability

Yes

Partition Capability

Yes (2)

Encoding

RLL 32/33 PRML

Write Elements

16

Archival Life

30 years

 

This generation of the LTO tape is available in a number of popular brands. Some examples are given in the following table.

LTO-5 Backup Tape

 

Manufacturing Brand

Part

HP

C7975W

SONY

LTX1500G

MAXELL

22932300

IMATION

27672

FUJI

P10DDLTA10A

QUANTUM

MR-L5MQN-01

IBM

46X1290

DELL

02H9YH

 

LTO Ultrium 6

The latest generation released recently in 2012 is the LTO-6 Backup Tape and possesses the largest storage capacity of not only the LTO technology but the entire data tape industry. The storage capacity offered is 2.5 TB. The compression ratio is increased to 2.5:1 making the total compressed data that you can store on it as large as 6.25 TB. The data transfer rate is the fastest standing at 160MB/s. The tape contains most of the features of the LTO-5 tape including WORM capability and the LTFS system. This specific tape was designed for large companies who needed large amounts of storage spaces for their important data. The detailed specifications are given below:

 

Tape Technology

LTO Ultrium 6 (LTO-6 Backup Tape)

Native Capacity

2.5 TB

Compression ratio

2.5:1

Data Transfer Rate

160 MB/s

Tape Length

846 m

Tape Thickness

6.1 um

Tape Tracks

2176

Cartridge Memory

16 KB

WORM Capability

Yes

Encryption Capability

Yes

Partition Capability

Yes (4)

Encoding

32/33 RLL NPML

Write Elements

16

Archival Life

30 years

 

Examples of different brands available include:

LTO-6 Backup Tape

 

Manufacturing Brand

Part

HP

C7976B

SONY

LTX2500G

MAXELL

22955800

IMATION

29080

FUJI

P10DDLUA00A

QUANTUM

MR-L6MQN-01

IBM

00V7590

 

 

 

Having looked at all the generations of the Linear Tape Open technology in detail you can understand why it is such an attractive mode of storing data. Another feature that all the LTO generations possess is the read compatibility within 2 generations and the write compatibility within 1 generation of one another. This for example means that the LTO-6 tape is read compatible with both the LTO-4 tape and the LTO-5 tape and is write compatible with the LTO-5 tape. These features combined with affordable prices make the LTO tape technology an effective Data Backup solution for any business.

 

 

 

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