Storage Media Explained

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LTO-6 and Storage Media Explained

In 2012, storage media and drive companies began distribution of the sixth generation of linear-tape open (LTO) technology, formally known as LTO-6. LTO-6, like previous LTO generations before it, dramatically increased the storage volume and data capabilities for backup and archive applications.

The LTO-6 drives produced by HPE, IBM, and Quantum offer up to 400MBps performance or, using a 2.5:1 compression ratio, up to 1.4TB of data transferred per hour.

Correspondingly, Tandberg, Imation, Fujifilm, Hitachi, Maxell, Sony and TDK also completed testing of the new LTO technology, so they could use the LTO Ultrium 6 format trademarks for resale of the products.

The Difference Between LTO5 and LTO6

Compared with previous generation LTO-5 drives and cartridges, LTO-6 cartridges more than double capacity (with compression) and offer a 40% performance boost, with the ability to hold up to 2.5TB natively or 6.25TB of compressed data.

The previous generation LTO-5 held up to 1.5TB natively and 3TB of compressed data. The LTO-5 drives had a native data transfer rate of 200MBps or up to 1TB per hour with 2:1 compression.

ibm lto 5
LTO - 5
maxell lto 6
LTO - 6

Much like the LTO generations prior, LTO-6 drives also provide backward compatibility with the ability to read and write LTO-5 cartridges and read LTO-4 cartridges, helping to preserve data storage investments and simplify application.

As with LTO-5, the LTO-6 format includes a partitioning functionality, enabling users to present a tape-based file system with the use of the Linear Tape File System (LTFS).

What is LTFS?

LTFS, an open file system made available in 2010, takes advantage of the partitioning feature that became offered with LTO-5 technology. This provides file system access to tape data and easier management such as “drag and drop” and search functionality.

LTFS itself is a file system with a POSIX interface that applications such as File Explorer can access. A user can then add a network-attached storage stack (such as NFS and/or CIFS) on top of LTFS, sanctioning unified access to files from any desktop. LTFS is enabled by the dual partitioning capability of LTO-5, and now LTO-6.

LTO 6 storage media explained

For example, Partition 0 would hold the tape’s content index, which can be more quickly accessed. The second partition, Partition 1, holds the content of the tape. The partitions allow users to view that data without having to read through an entire tape. Once the desired data is located in the index, a simple copy command can be used to move the data from the tape to a disk drive if needed.

Storage Media Explained

So, what is the secret behind LTO tape technology and its ability to quickly and reliably protect and maintain your data? Well there are a number of key factors that contribute to its storage capabilities, performance and longevity.

Let’s get visual for a minute and imagine a hummingbird outside of your kitchen window. The hummingbird, ever so small, has a massive heart which supplies the wings with the oxygen it needs for high speed wing flapping of up to 200 times per second.

humming bird

Much like the hummingbird, the heartbeat that keeps LTO tape going is the advanced servo system. In the servo system there are 4 data regions, or bands, on the LTO tape media to store data. In the case of LTO-6 tape that’s up to 6.25TB of high-speed storage compressed!

Each of the data bands is bordered by two servo bands. One servo band above and below each data band. The servo bands are read by servo read elements in the tape drive head assembly to provide precise alignment of the head assembly for highly reliable read and write accuracy.

Only one servo band is needed to provide alignment but the system uses two at all times for built-in redundancy. The servo system is one of the key features that makes LTO tape so trustworthy with a strong roadmap to the future.

3 Respected Achievements of LTO Technology

  1. LTO tape can be used like a disk drive. With the Linear Tape File System (LTFS) and LTO 5 or 6 technology the tape can be used like a disk or USB thumb drive.
  2. LTO technology features strong encryption. The encryption capabilities allow for security of your data while at rest or in transport. The LTO encryption uses a 256-symmetric key AES-GCM algorithm that is implemented at the drive level allowing the data to be compressed and then encrypted for maximum capacity secure storage.
  3. LTO WORM is designed to provide users a very cost-effective means of storing data in a non-rewriteable format. The beauty of the WORM feature is its ability to address compliance regulations, especially in healthcare industry where data security standards are at the highest. The WORM (Write Once Read Many) has strong processes in combination with low level encoding designed to prevent tampering of data. If you’re in a situation that requires data to be stored and never modified, LTO WORM tape is the way to go. 


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