LTO Technology

Linear Tape-Open (LTO) technology was developed as an “open format” technology so that users would have multiple sources of product and media.

For more than a decade, LTO technology has proven so effective at preserving and protecting critical business data in the most demanding enterprise environments, while maintaining an affordable and open format, that it has become the de facto tape standard.


The three LTO technology provider companies (HPE, IBM, and Quantum) understood from the beginning that for an open format to succeed they needed to ensure compatibility across any vendor device and media. To meet this need, before any product is granted use of the LTO Ultrium trademark it must pass comprehensive third-party verification tests to ensure compliance with the Ultrium tape format specification. Equally important is the need to ensure compatibility across LTO generations, ensuring existing customers a migration path to the future. Each LTO generation maintains backward read and write capabilities, protecting customers investment in LTO devices and media, and ensuring a growth path to the future.

Read-Write Compatibility Chart

Model LTO-3 LTO-4 LTO-5 LTO-6 LTO-7 LTO-8
1, 2, 3
2, 3, 4
3, 4, 5
4, 5, 6
5, 6, 7
7, 8
2, 3
3, 4
4, 5
5, 6
6, 7
7, 8


With no signs of slowing, the rapid growth of digital content creation means customers must always keep an eye on the future when deploying new technologies today. It’s critical to know there is a path to meet the future capacity and performance requirements that inevitably come; whether through known organic growth, surprise acquisitions or new corporate initiatives. LTO has proven capable of meeting these demands by delivering eight generations of capacity and performance growth, with another four generations defined for the future.

Model: LTO-5 LTO-6 LTO-7 LTO-8 LTO-9 LTO-10 LTO-11 LTO-12
Capacity w/Compression
WORM Support
NOTE: Compressed capacities for generations 1-5 assume 2:1 compression. Compressed capacities for generations 6-12 assume 2.5:1 compression (achieved with larger compression history buffer). SOURCE: The LTO Program. The LTO Ultrium roadmap is subject to change without notice and represents goals and objectives only. Linear Tape-Open, LTO, the LTO logo, Ultrium, and the Ultrium logo are registered trademarks of HPE, IBM and Quantum in the U.S. and other countries.

WORM and Encryption

Tape’s unique characteristics, including large capacity, low price and portability, prompted the LTO program to develop some advanced data protection features, such as WORM and encryption. WORM (write once read many) technology ensures data written to a tape can never be altered or over-written. WORM technology is critical for many compliance requirements, as well as, any instance where the content is so valuable that content owners want to ensure it cannot be erased or altered. WORM technology is supported by all currently shipping LTO devices at no extra charge, it only requires purchase of specific WORM media cartridges.

An unfortunate reality of today's world is that data breaches are increasing. That's why LTO has provided drive-level encryption technology since its 4th generation, LTO-4 tape drive. Encryption is provided standard in all drives since LTO-4, with a variety of encryption key solutions available, including Quantum's Scalar Key Manager (SKM), to simplify and automate the management of encryption keys. With no negative impact on drive performance or capacity, there is no good reason for any company not to be utilizing the encryption capabilities built into their LTO tape drives. With government level AES-256 bit encryption, users can be confident their data is protected even while transported off-site for vaulting.

Linear Tape File System (LTFS)

The Linear Tape File System (LTFS) presents files on tape to a user just like disk or other removable media, such as USB drives. The LTO partitioning feature (available since LTO-5) creates a separate partition on the front of the tape providing an index of content stored on the primary tape partition. With LTFS, users are able to search, retrieve, and store files simply through any operating system, without the need for a backup application. LTFS is an ideal technology for companies that are struggling with large amounts of unstructured data, such as images, videos, scanned documents, and engineering or architectural project files. This content does not compress or dedupe well, and typically content owners will require content access and retrieval at unpredictable intervals; all of which adds additional burden to an already stressed IT organization. By creating a NAS-tape archive, with LTFS, IT organizations can provide content owners direct access to their archived content in an affordable and protected solution; freeing up valuable primary disk storage, thus reducing the data protection requirements, while enabling a more agile workflow for the business.

Environmental and Operational Costs

Not all data is equal. Treating it as such will kill an IT budget and constrain the data workflow needed for businesses to compete today. Tape continues to play an important role in preserving and protecting data because its unique features are ideally suited for long-term data retention and content archive applications. Tapes portability, low power and high capacity capabilities make it a key technology for companies implementing tiered-storage architectures. Leverage tapes low environmental and operational costs, frees up IT resources for more I/O intensive applications. Advanced features in Quantum Scalar libraries, such as EDLM (to ensure the recoverability of archived tapes) and Active Vault (reducing costs while improving access time to vaulted content) further enhance tapes role in a comprehensive data management solution.

When it comes to protecting your data,
nothing is more important.


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