Linear Tape-Open (LTO) magnetic tape data storage has been around since the turn of the century. However, tape was initially introduced as a storage medium back in the 1950s. Today, it is widely embraced by large enterprises and within the entertainment industry. Tape has come to be relied upon as a dependable, competitive storage solution. Yet as with all backup storage alternatives, LTO tape has its pros and its cons.
What is LTO Tape?
It all started back in the1950s with the development of the half-Inch (12,65mm) tape to store data. Multiple vendors and formats competed, but none of them were compatible with the other. After decades of trial, error, and innovation the LTO tape was brought to market in 2000 with LTO1. The LTO cartridge has a single reel of tape. When in the tape drive, the tape gets wound into the drive to the take-up reel. Tape length originally started with 600m and is now at 960m per cartridge
LTO technology was created in 1998 between Quantum, Hewlett Packard, and IBM. The joint project was undertaken with the goal of creating an open format and compatibility between different vendors. With features like data compression, track layout and error correction, LTO tape is still able to maintain its data integrity. An LTO roadmap was developed delivering double the storage capacity from one generation to the next, currently extending to LTO-12.
How Does LTO Tape Work?
To keep it simple, data is written on the tape in sequential order, one file after the next. Access to the data on the tape is also sequential. We break down the principles of how LTO tape works below.
The Structure of LTO Tape
LTO tape is made up of servo bands. Servo bands serve like guard rails for the read/write head and provide compatibility and adjustment between different tape drives. The read/write head positions between two servo bands that surround the data band.
Writing Data to LTO Tape
The read-write head writes multiple data tracks at the same time in a single, one-way, end-to-end pass. This is called a “wrap.” At the end of the tape, the process continues as reverse pass and the head shifts to access the next wrap. This process is done from the edge to the center and is known as “linear serpentine recording.” Specific markers on the tape signal specific points, like BOT (beginning of tape), EOT (end of tape).
LTO Double Check
To make certain that the data written on the tape is matches what it should be, a verify-after-write process is used. This process uses a read head that the tape passes after a write head.
Why Use LTO Tape as a Primary Source of Storage?
LTO tape is a widely accepted storage solution.
With millions of tapes in circulation and available for almost 20 years, LTO has out lasted competing storage technologies and offers a powerful substitute to disk. Many have long been saying that disk storage would be the imminent “death of tape.” However, LTO remains an industry standard for archival media. Major motion picture studios continue to depend on tape to create backup archives of their content.
LTO tape offers a vast storage capacity.
LTO cartridges can hold massive amounts of data, offering high-capacity storage that expands with every generation, resulting in the need for fewer tapes to store the same amount of data. The latest generation of LTO tape technology, LTO-9, holds up to 45 terabytes compressed per cartridge (18 terabytes native), amplifying the capacity of previous generations.
Simple LTO design guarantees dependability.
LTO tape is a straightforward storage solution constructed of simple parts, making it a perfect long-term storage medium. In comparison, hard disk drives are intricate gadgets with many moving parts that must be connected to a power source in order to operate. LTO tape is only in use when transferring data. Hard drives become less dependable when not used consistently and have a short stagnant shelf life. Disk storage also puts the user at greater risk of falling prey to cyber criminals and computer vulnerabilities like hacking, viruses, and ransomware. Tape embodies a secure defense against these weaknesses, especially when used in the air-gap.
Tape costs are low compared to other storage solutions.
LTO is seen as having the lowest cost per gigabyte among all active storage media in the market. Why is this? LTO tape uses less amount energy to operate and offers less-expensive storage capacity, ultimately resulting in cost savings. Tape is the least expensive enterprise storage choice, even when the cost of off-site storage is included.
LTO offers an easy-to-use direct access system.
LTO technology offers the Linear Tape File System (LTFS). LTFS is a direct access system that allows files stored on magnetic tape to be accessed in a similar fashion to those on disk. When using the LTFS, LTO tape can offer access comparable to those of disk storage. LTFS allows its users search a tape for specific data as easily as a hard disk, enhancing access time.
LTO tape offers off-site storage benefits.
Utilizing an onsite disk storage infrastructure requires tons of space and energy. Moving rarely-used data to long-term offsite tape storage can be a cheaper option to costly working office space. An off-site storage medium also provides a disaster recovery option for high-value content. We recommend using the 3-2-1-1 storage method with LTO tape.