There’s been a lot of interest in IBM’s new LTO-8 drive, onto which you can write 12TB per tape, or up to 30TB at 2.5:1 compression – and at high speed (300MBps / 750MBps).
However, when you look at the Data Sheet, you see that it only supports the reading of LTO-7 tapes, not LTO-6.
There’s a good reason for this – they’ve changed from GMR (Giant Magneto-Resistance) heads to TMR (Tunnel Magnetoresistance Recording) heads, which write denser data and so provide more capacity. From LTO-8 to LTO-12, 2 generation support will return, as they will use TMR heads.
Until now, all LTO systems have provided backwards compatibility for the last 2 generations, which gives security to people writing petabytes of data onto a format that’s refreshed every 18 months: you can write a tape today and still read it on new systems in 3-5 years without having to migrate it, or retain support for old hardware.
But with 1 generation support in LTO-8, what are you going to do with the LTO-6 tapes you’ve just written on the drives you bought in 2014, when you need to upgrade to new libraries and drives?
Until now, LTO added up as a cheaper option over many years for cold storage of data you don’t need to access. This change certainly makes cloud storage seem more sustainable – and, if there’s a lot of media you’ll need transition to new formats sooner, easier & cheaper.