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Fujifilm has just announced the launch of the FUJIFILM LTO Ulrium9 Data Cartridge (LTO9).

This is the first step in the LTO9 launch program to be followed up with the vendor release of LTO9 tape drive hardware which is widely expected to be available sometime in Q4 2021.

The confirmed specification for the ninth generation of LTO tape media offers a 50% data storage capacity increase over the current LTO-8, or 1400% if you go back to LTO-5.

LTO-9 tapes provide a data storage capacity of 18TB native or up to 45TB with data compression.

LTO-9 tape drives promise 400MB/sec native data transfer speeds and up to 1000MB/sec with compression for Full Height (FH) Drives. That compares with native data speeds of 360MB/sec for FH LTO-8.

Although LTO technology traditionally allowed backward compatibility for an LTO drive to read-only two generations earlier tape media (i.e., an LTO7 drive could read only an LTO5 tape) the ongoing LTO technology development meant LTO8 could only read/write to LTO7/M8 tape media. This has continued with an LTO9 tape drive able to read/write back to LTO8 tape media only.

As I understand it, M8 formatted LTO-7 media may have complicated this backward compatibility and as a result, it may have been simpler to not support any form of LTO-7 media.

Through an accelerated life test the Barium Ferrite (BaFe) magnetic particles used to coat the modern LTO tape has been reported* to maintain stable magnetic characteristics for over 50 years.

With current 18TB HDD technology using an areal density of 1022 Gb/in² vs the 18TB LTO-9 cartridges 12 Gb/in² there is every opportunity to increase areal densities of tape and continue the historical capacity growth for future LTO generations.

Given LTO tape media continues to provide low-cost, reliable, long-term data storage with significantly lower environmental impacts than most alternatives the future of LTO is only becoming more relevant to industry as data generation continues to increase exponentially.

Additionally, LTO promotes enhanced data security enabling an “air gap” data protection strategy through physical isolation from the network thereby minimizing the risk of data corruption caused by system failures, computer viruses and/or cyber-attacks.

*Tape Storage Technical Committee of JEITA.

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