LTO Tape Drives Worth The Cost For Your Organization

Tape storage technology must provide high storage capacity, speed, and reliability to be attractive to the marketplace. LTO (Linear Tape Open) technology was developed jointly by HP, IBM, and Certance to provide all of those features to tape buyers. When LTO tape drives were first developed there were two formats available: Accelis for high speed and Ultrium for high capacity. As the speed of the Ultrium format grew, the demand for Accelis dropped and that format has been discontinued. In today's marketplace, LTO and Ultrium have become interchangeable. LTO was created as an open technology, not limited to certain vendors.

A user shopping for these tape drives or these tape libraries can choose from multiple sources. The buyer has more vendor options and plenty of other more cost effective tape technologies to choose between. However, these tape drives are guaranteed to remain compatible across vendors by a third party review organization, the LTO Compliance Verification Entity.

A four-generation technology road map for the LTO tape drive and tape library was released in 1998. The plan was to double capacity and speed with every new generation, anticipating new releases every 18-24 months. The release schedule has remained on track and Ultrium generation 3 products started appearing in late 2004 and early 2005. The technology has remained true to the road map with a generation 3 LTO tape drives and tape libraries achieving capacities of 800 GB and speeds of 160 MB/s. The LTO Program updated the technology schedule to include generations 5 and 6, which will continue the trend of doubling capabilities with each new generation. An LTO tape library is a tool for large enterprise operations.

These tape libraries are a high-capacity storage system that combines one or more LTO tape drives, cartridge storage racks, and an automatic system for cartridge retrieval and storage. The tape library can potentially give access to thousands of tapes and thousands of terabytes of information. The LTO tape drive and tape library is aimed at the high-capacity user, typically business LANs. When compared to competing tape technologies such as DDS, AIT, and DLT, LTO equals or exceeds the competitors in almost every way. Cartridges have a shelf life of 30 years and a usage life of over a million end-to-end passes.

That capability doesn't come cheap. The price of an LTO tape drive is out of reach of a home user or small business, and the cost of an tape library can run well into the five-figure range, but LTO is overkill for those markets anyhow. This technology is aimed squarely at the highest capacity backup needs, the large enterprise LAN.

For that target customer, LTO is probably the best choice of competing technologies.

Author is a freelance copywriter. For more information on LTO tape drives, visit


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