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Tape here to stay, says Spectra Logic with LTO-8 2x capacity gain

LTO-8 tape to boost capacity by leveraging HDD head read technology TMR. Spectra gets in early with offer to customers, “buy LTO-7, get LTO-8 when it ships”

Tape is here to stay” – that is the view of Spectra Logic, which has told customers that if they buy its LTO-7 products now, they will get LTO-8 equivalents when available, probably by the end of this year.

Matt Starr, CTO at Spectra Logic, pointed out that the next generation LTO-8 tape standard will use TMR (tunnel magnetoresistance) to double tape cartridge capacity to 12TB uncompressed. He said he expected the use of TMR to boost tape capacity significantly over its next three or four generations.

With TMR, LTO-8 will double the capacity of tape cartridges to 12TB with throughput of 360MBps, which can be doubled by use of compression.

TMR is a technique based in quantum physics that switches electrical charges between states by varying the direction of magnetic current in layers surrounding the charged material.

It is not a completely new technique, but provides a much more defined electrical signal than the previous GMR (giant magnetoresistance) technology and so allows bits to be written to much smaller areas of media.

The transition from GMR to TMR in 2004 saw spinning disk hard drives double in capacity. Now tape is leveraging a similar transition.

Starr said: “Tape and disk are about 15 years apart. Things that were developed in disk to generate capacity are later leveraged into tape.”

Although Starr acknowledged that tape is in long-term decline, he said that is mostly down to its retirement from use as a backup medium.

Read more on tape and archiving

Where organisations would once have backed up directly to tape on a daily basis, they now protect data using disk-based backup appliances or other straight-to-disk data protection methods, such as snapshots and replication.

Starr said, however, that tape is holding its usefulness as an archiving medium and with expected increases in capacity over forthcoming LTO generations, it is likely a tape cartridge will hold close to 200TB in the next decade.

“A lot of our larger customers are coming to tape from disk,” he said. “They are looking at growing data volumes and seeing the value of archiving to tape. Meanwhile, use of tape for backup has declined from something like 100% 10 years ago to about 20% of cases now.”

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