technology continues to improve decades later

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According to the analytical company Trend Focus, sales of tape drives in 2022-2023. rose sharply. So, in 2022, shipments of this type of drives grew by 14% at once, while sales of hard drives fell by 40% – and this includes high-capacity corporate HDDs. In 2023, it is too early to sum up the results, but based on current sales figures, analysts predict a 13% increase compared to 2022.

There is no need to be surprised – the needs of hyperscalers, owners and operators of data centers in capacious drives are growing, so the trend is quite understandable. Technology, by the way, continues to improve. Relatively recently, the LTO-9 standard was announced, and now a new, even more capacious drive has appeared. It is now possible to store about 150 TB of data on a single medium, which is about three times more than LTO-9. Details are under the cut.



Possibilities of new technology


It was developed by IBM, called
technology TS1170. Thanks to it, one “cassette” can record about 50 TB of data in uncompressed form and about 150 in compressed form. At the same time, media designed according to the LTO-9 standard can record about 18 TB uncompressed or 45 TB compressed. Accordingly, the capacity of TS1170 three times morewhich can be very useful for corporate clients.

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IBM is constantly working to improve tape drives. The previous record belongs to the TS1160 model, which can accommodate about 20 TB of data in uncompressed form and 60 in compressed form.

Unfortunately, in terms of read-write speed, the novelty loses to the same LTO-9. So, for TS1170 the characteristics are as follows. For uncompressed data, the read speed is 400 MB/s and 900 MB/s for compressed. This is about 2.5 times faster than hard drives.

As for LTO-9, the performance is even better there. Reading speed for them – 750 MB / s and 1000 MB / s when working with uncompressed and compressed information, respectively, and their recording speed is 360 and 440 MB / s.

There are two drive options – 70F and 70S. Both are connected via fiber optics. But in the case of the first model, it is 16 Gb / s, and the second – 12 Gb / s.

The technology is modern, so the data is encrypted, the encryption standard is compatible with IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager. It is clear that mounting systems are needed to install drives in a server, and the company also developed them. So all this can be installed in a regular 19-inch rack. The entire system occupies three levels in the rack.

Who is this for?


Of course, for corporate customers, this is not a technology for consumer devices. Tape drives are used almost exclusively as “cold” storage – they are loaded with data that is not accessed too often. For this, high-capacity enterprise HDDs and SSDs are used.

The main advantages of tape drives:

They are very reliable. In terms of data storage, the technology surpasses HDD or SSD, this figure is 15-30 years. This is a record among all commercial storage technologies. Of course, there are all sorts of exotic developments such as recording data on quartz crystals, but these are rather projects developed by individual laboratories, and there is no need to talk about their soon any extensive use.
Large amount of data storage. This has already been discussed above – the technology is also superior to both HDD and SSD.
Low cost of data storage. They also provide an opportunity to cut costs. With widespread use of this technology, storage maintenance costs can be reduced about twice.

In fairness, it is worth noting that the drive itself costs a lot of money – something about a million rubles or more, depending on the model. But here is the other side of the coin – installed, configured, and that’s it, you can use it for many years. At the same time, the same LTO standard is backward compatible with previous standards.

What’s next?


All major tape drive manufacturers, including IBM, HPE and Quantum, are predicting further sales growth through 2027. In 2022, the total volume of tape drives sold was about 79.3 exabytes.

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According to analysts from Trend Focus, in quantitative terms, sales may begin to decline in a few years, as more and more capacious versions of tape drives appear on the market. As you can see, they really appear. But here one can argue about the fairness of the forecast – after all, companies need more and more space for storing data, so, most likely, changing the capacities of new drives will not play a special role, sales will grow in any case.

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