Months After Patent Dispute, LTO-8 Media Shipments On Track

Following the settlement this summer of a bitter court fight between Fujifilm and Sony over patents relating to the next generation of Linear Tape-Open (LTO) magnetic tape data storage technology, global shipments of LTO-8 media are now reaching end users. It’s a huge relief for large media organizations looking to migrate their assets to the larger capacity cartridges without increasing library footprints.

On August 6, the two tape media manufacturers agreed to a five-year global patent cross-licensing deal, leading the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to dismiss their patent dispute case.

With Fujifilm and Sony both now producing LTO-8 cartridges in quantity, LTO Program Technology Provider Companies like HPEIBM and Quantum have begun supplying their respective customers with the new cassettes that hold 12TB raw capacity (or up to 30TB compressed) as soon as they get them. Until now they’ve had to make do with 6TB LTO-7 technology tape, possibly formatted to 9TB via an M8 formatting step in an LTO-8 drive. [LTO-7 media formatted as type M in LTO-8 drives, will not be readable by LTO-9 drives.]

In mid-September, Dicker Data, a local distributor of IT hardware, software, cloud and IoT solutions, received Australia’s first shipment of FUJIFILM Ultrium8 Data Cartridges (LTO-8), which the company used to promote its business.

“To say the market has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of FUJIFILM LTO-8 tapes is an understatement,” Paul Tutton, Dicker’s National Business Development Manager, said at the time. “As such we pre-ordered the large amount of stock you see here, most of which we have already sold to our customers. Fortunately FUJIFILM, as the manufacturer, have plenty of available stock and that combined with our next day delivery means our customers are always taken care of.”

Dicker Data National Business Development Manager Paul Tutton poses with Australia’s first delivery of Fujifilm LTO-8 tapes.

Dicker Data National Business Development Manager Paul Tutton poses with Australia’s first delivery of Fujifilm LTO-8 tapes.

Fujifilm LTO-8 tapes use its patented Barium Ferrite (BaFe) magnetic particle technology, providing recording/retrieval performance and long-term durability with a storage capacity twice that of the previous generation LTO-7. Sony's version uses similar data storage technology. They both are capable of transferring data at 750MB/sec (360MB/sec for non-compressed).

“LTO tape is more relevant than ever to the market as it offers low cost of ownership, easy scalability and excellent security and protection from threats such as ransomware,” Tutton said. “The fact that Fujifilm LTO-8 tapes are also available in WORM or an ECO pack in purchases of 20 carts or more for the plain packaging that eliminates individual plastic cases, makes these tapes a very attractive proposition indeed.”

Meanwhile, storage system supplier welcomed the news of a five-year settlement.

“We are thankful that it has been resolved for at least five years,” said Jason Coari, director of product marketing at Quantum. “There are a number of large organizations that we service that were anxiously waiting for the case to be resolved before their archive strategy depended upon those 12 TB tapes and also having a road map into the future.”

The LTO-8 format provides the highest level of capacity and the lowest cost per terabyte of any LTO generation.

The LTO-8 format provides the highest level of capacity and the lowest cost per terabyte of any LTO generation.

Coari said that LTO-8 does provide the highest level of capacity and the lowest cost per Terabyte of any LTO generation. It also provides higher performance, so his company is recommending LTO-8 to customers as their next step in archive management.

Industry experts have predicted that it could take months to fulfill all backlogged LTO-8 tape media orders, so some customers could be waiting until some time next year to get their cartridges.

Other storage systems and media suppliers also breathed a sigh of relief after the settlement was announced.

“After an impasse that took far too long to resolve LTO-8 is now becoming quite freely available,” said Nik Forman, director of marketing & partnerships at Masstech. “Media pricing is taking a little time to settle down as greater availability lowers the cost but it’s more or less there.

Forman added that for those existing tape users who are looking to LTO-8 as part of their next generation storage, the pain of migrating from one version to another can be significantly reduced, with automated tape migration tools; such as those offered by Masstech’s Kumulate storage and asset lifecycle management system.

Adding to the data storage migration confusion, the succeeding LTO-9 format, with double LTO-8 capacity at 24TB raw, is due to arrive in 2020.

“By December [LTO-8] shipments should be back to where they were previously,” Quantum’s Coari said.

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