LTO-6 Expected to Ship in 2H12

Said Spectra Logic launching pre-purchase program
By Jean Jacques Maleval on 2012.01.18

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Spectra Logic Corporation announced the worldwide launch of its LTO-6 tape drive pre-purchase program.


With general availability of LTO-6 tape drives and media expected in 2012, customers can now join the LTO-6 pre-purchase program and receive LTO-5 drives today for use until LTO-6 drives become available.

Once LTO-6 is released, pre-purchase customers will be at the top of the initial shipment list to receive new LTO-6 drives. This program enables customers to make tape library purchases to meet today's data storage needs while ensuring the investment is future-proofed with an upgrade to the next generation drive and media technology once available.

For larger libraries, including the T-Finity, T950, T680, T380 and T200, LTO-6 tape drives will include native 8Gb FC interfaces that are compatible with existing 2Gb, 4Gb and 8Gb fibre channel switches and host bus adapters. For the T50e and T120 libraries, LTO-6 tape drives will come in either 8Gb FC or 6Gb SAS interfaces. LTO-6 will offer a storage capacity of up to 8.0TB (compressed, or 3.2 TB native) - more than double the capacity of the previous generation, and expected transfer rates of up to 525 megabytes per second (compressed, or 210 MB/s native).

LTO-6 drives are designed with backwards-compatible read-and-write capability with LTO-5 cartridges, and backward read capabilities with LTO-4 and LTO-5 cartridges. In addition, LTO-6 drives will be compatible with Spectra's BlueScale software and features, including BlueScale Encryption and Key Management, Spectra's Media Lifecycle Management (MLM), Data Integrity Verification, drive-level AES-256 bit encryption key generation and WORM media capabilities.

"Spectra Logic's LTO-6 pre-purchase program will allow our customers to seamlessly and economically scale the capacity of their storage backup and archive infrastructures," said Dave Hiechel, president and CEO of EAGLE Software, Inc., a U.S.-based Elite SpectraEDGE channel partner. "Many of our customers took advantage of Spectra's industry-first LTO-5 advance purchase program, and we are excited about this similar offering for LTO-6. When LTO-6 becomes available, our customers will have the libraries and infrastructure already in place, and will immediately recognize dramatic capacity and performance increases from this new technology within the same data center footprint they use today."

"Once again Spectra is ahead of the pack with its LTO-6 pre-purchase program, which allows customers to drive forward with new tape library hardware today rather than delaying purchasing decisions until new technology becomes available," said Keith Warburton, director, The Global Distribution Group, a SpectraEDGE value add channel distributor based in the United Kingdom. "With Spectra Logic's exclusive LTO-6 advance purchase program our resellers' customers can future-proof their storage requirements, lower their total cost of data protection, and greatly increase their capacity and performance in the same or smaller foot print."

"Spectra Logic's LTO-6 pre-purchase program offers customers confidence that investments they make today are future proofed. There is no risk in implementing today's LTO-5 technology when a pre-purchase program for LTO-6 guarantees cost, priority shipment and seamless upgrades when available. LTO-6 Pre-purchase customers will be among the first to gain the capacity and performance advantages of LTO-6 drive technology," said Molly Rector, Spectra Logic's Chief Marketing Officer. "LTO's roadmap provides consistent, state-of-the -art technological advancements in tape reliability, capacity and transfer rate capabilities. These advancements leverage the inherent advantages of tape technology, and enable customers to keep pace with their ever-growing data storage requirements - reliably and cost effectively."

Pre-purchase program is available to customers and channel partners worldwide for complete line of T-Series tape libraries. The Spectra T-Finity, T950, T680, T380, T200, T120 and T50e libraries are all LTO-6 eligible for pre-purchase. Participants in LTO-6 pre-purchase program will be the first to receive LTO-6 drives when they become available.

LTO-6 drives and media are expected to ship in the second half of 2012.

Our Comments

First step in LTO-6 (native 3.2TB, 210MB/s) was in June 2011 when the Linear Tape-Open Program technology provider companies - HP, IBM and Quantum - announced the availability of licenses for this format, which means that the technology is ready on the paper. Up to now, only Sony said officially to have signed a license contract for the new cartridges.

Today no LTO-6 drives or media have been launched at all.
Spectra Logic did exactly the same operation in September 2009 for LTO-5 with a tape drive pre-purchase program providing LTO-4 drives to customers immediately and promising to replaces those loaned drives with LTO-5 when available.


Today the tape automation maker, following its new pre-purchase program, is safer and more realistic, expecting to ship LTO-6 "in the second half of 2012", which means before the end of the year or a maximum of 11 months from now.

As usual, new LTO tape formats take time to replace former ones. In its most recent report, the Santa Clara Consulting Group stated:" Total LTO [cartridge] sales were off at 5.6 million units in 3Q11. LTO-5 was a bright spot with 12% growth. It accounted for 18% of unit sales and 36% of dollars. LTO-4 was marginally up. Its sales represented 47% of units and 37% of dollars. LTO-3 sales were down. They accounted for 26% of volume and 19% of dollars. LTO-2 was also lower. It accounted for 8% of units and 7% of dollars. LTO-1 was up. It sold 1% of units and 1% of dollars."

According to the same analyst company, LTO accounted for 89.2% of total tape cartridges revenues or $159 million in 3Q11 - not including IBM's and Oracle's tape media for mainframes.

Tape is now mainly used as an archiving support rather as a backup media but each LTO generation is only read-and-write compatible with the former one and able to read the two former generations. Consequently, users have to migrate their data to new formats about each four years, the same operation that has to be done if you use hard disk drives for archiving.

Next LTO-7 is anticipated by the the Linear Tape-Open Program with native 6.4TB and 315MB/s, the last one being LTO-8 (12.8TB and 472 MB/s), but the organization doesn't reveal any introduction year in its roadmap.