One of the first things readers may be wondering when clicking on this article may be, tape backups are still viable in 2019? And that answer is a resounding "yes," in particular with large enterprises (not for home/consumers). To that end, Fujifilm has announced the general availability of the LTO-8 (Linear Tape-Open) data cartridge. The new cartridge can support 12TB native and 30TB compressed at a 2.5:1 ratio (compression ratios will vary by the data and other factors). The capacity doubles the previous generation LTO-7 volumes which the company says addresses the increasing need for high capacity, cost-effective and reliable long term storage.
While LTO-8 tapes are not new (LTO Ultrium 8 was released in 2017) it is good to see Fuji back in the game. The only two producers, Sony and Fuji, were tied up in a patent infringement lawsuit which stopped Sony from importing them to the US and Fuji, as late as June of 2019, saying they were not currently manufacturing LTO 8 and not selling them to that point. This created a shortage, but only effected those organizations which tend to quickly move to the higher capacity storage media. In the end, a higher-capacity tape allows customers to store more data and better utilize the existing footprint of the tape library. With real estate in Data Centers at an extreme premium, it can make sense to move to a higher capacity tape.
History out of the way, the new LTO Ultrium 8 (Ultrium is the form factor) data cartridge is based on Fujifilm's nanocubic thin coating technology incorporating finer barium ferrite (BaFe) particles than in previous generations. The magnetic material features a high signal-to-noise ratio said to result in higher stability and the ability to store data for more than 50 years. Transfer speeds increased from 700 MB/s on LTO-7 up to 750 MB/s in LTO-8 for compressed data, and 360 MB/s (up from 300 MB/s) for uncompressed data.
So what is the point? With more information being created in these large organizations, the need to back up more data then to be able to retrieve and use it is paramount for many of today's enterprise size and smaller companies. While there are direct-to-tape and hybrid (FLAPE) solutions available, the initial capital expenditure may be too much for a company to handle without significant lead time for planning and budgets. Additionally, the time, effort and cost to migrate data will also play a role.
Fujifilm's LTO Ultrium 8 tapes are available now.