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IBM has announced the general availability of the industry’s first magnetic tapes and drives based on the LTO-9 Ultrium specification. The design allows the drives to offer higher data capacity and resilience.

The Linear Tape-Open (LTO) 9 comes with a 50% improvement in capacity over LT0-8, meaning you get 18TB native capacity and 45TB after data compression.

Sony and Fujifilm announced similar products last month, but IBM is the first to deliver a drive. The previous LTO specs have usually arrived with 100% capacity jumps. The new arrivals show tape could be reaching its limits.

Squeezing more from tape

The growth in LTO-9 transfer speeds is modest compared to previous releases, going from 750Mbps in LTO-8 to 1Gbps for compressed data and from 360Mbps to 440Mbps for uncompressed data.

Intel may have a fix for what looks like tape reaching its limits.

The new drives come with Big Blue’s new Open Recommended Access Order (oRAO), a data-retrieval accelerator that aims to cut down on seek time for apps to retrieve data from tapes. oRAO is usable with both compressed and uncompressed data, with IBM claiming that it can reduce the access times by up to 73%.

How IBM is positioning tape

IBM sees tape as a solution for security concerns, especially ransomware. The full-height IBM LTO-9 tapes’ design natively supports data encryption, with core hardware encryption and description capabilities stored in it, to reduce the risk of data corruption caused by viruses or attacks.

IBM is also touting the cost benefits of tape, saying it costs $0.0059/GB per month or $5.89 per TB.

An LTO-9-based tape drive can store up to 39 Petabytes of compressed data in a 10-square-foot tape library with LTO-9 Ultrium tape cartridges.