Before I start I want to clearly state that I think that tape is a required data storage technology today. And although LTO (Linear Tape Open) is not as reliable, as dense or as fast as enterprise tape, it would be not be a good thing to lose the technology.

Now that TDK has announced they are getting out of the LTO market, leaving three manufacturers of tape and one distributor left, it begs the question: will the LTO consortium survive?

Of course we have three manufacturers of tape drives, but is that not a bit iffy also? Quantum has well-known financial issues and recently outsourced the library development. HP storage revenue has dramatically dropped. Who knows what IBM really wants, as they make both LTO and enterprise tape.

The last generation of LTO had a less than expected density improvement and the performance increases have not been very noteworthy over the last few generations. While the cost of LTO tape is less than enterprise tape, LTO tape is not as reliable from the hard error perspective and cartridge design. LTO is not a dense, so it requires more library slots for the same amount of storage. LTO is not as fast, so it requires more tape drives, which takes library slots.

Some of the recent studies I have done for customers suggest that the cost of LTO and the cost of enterprise tape for 5 PB and greater configurations are not that much different. Which leads to the question today: If LTO were to go away, would it make much difference to the tape community other than the initial problems that would require people to migrate to new technologies?

This of course would cause significant harm to smaller tape library companies, which have no relationships with enterprise tape vendors. Nothing is going to happen immediately, but it is something that should be followed closely if you are invested in LTO.

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