So how else might we hollow out the deep data lakes on which future archival storage will depend? Simple. By using, or rather continuing to use, one of the oldest and most reliable of all storage technologies, which has recently been witnessing more capacity demand than ever before. And that would be tape, specifically LTO Ultrium tape storage.
To absorb the data growth rates of the “zettabyte era,” LTO tape still has plenty of R&D headroom. INSIC is forecasting a 33% CAGR in areal density which will catapult current tape capacities from 30 TB with LTO-8, to 480 TB by the time Generation 12 LTO appears towards the end of the next decade. A typical midrange library, like the HPE StoreEver MSL3040, that today has a maximum, fully loaded capacity of 8.4 PB using LTO-8 media, will be able to host an astonishing 134 PB with LTO-12, all within 21U or just half a traditional data center rack. Just 1 PB alone represents about 6.5 billion Facebook images.
But this is just scratching the surface of LTO tape’s true potential. The giant HPE TFinity Exascale with its current 53,000 tape, 1.6 Exabyte capacity might one day be able to hold 25 EB using LTO-12 cartridges—or the equivalent of 275 million 4K movies.
Crucially, all of the storage media (the tapes themselves) can be removed and safely stored offsite for decades if need be in a vault requiring minimal power or cooling. It’s these fundamental physical differences that make an almost insurmountable and unanswerable case for LTO tape storage to remain as the bedrock of our digital universe, especially in a world populated by billions of IoT devices. For the long-term preservation of essential, infrequently accessed data, it’s my opinion that there is is no other technology available that remotely comes close to matching the utility, cost, and environmental benefits of tape storage.