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Definition: LTO

(Linear Tape Open) A family of open magnetic tape standards governed by HPE, IBM and Quantum that is licensed to third-party vendors. In 1998, two LTO formats were introduced that shared magnetic head and track layout, but the Ultrium cartridge was accepted, while the Accelis cassette never took off. As of 2020, LTO is the only thriving tape format among all other tape technologies. An ambitious LTO roadmap is projecting an LTO-12 cartridge to have a native capacity of 192TB.

A Built-in Chip
LTO cartridges contain an LTO-CM (LTO cartridge memory), which is a non-volatile EEPROM chip that stores location data and usage. Like an RFID chip, the EEPROM is read by radio waves. The CM also contains algorithms that prevent tampering when LTO is used for WORM storage, starting with LTO-3. See WORM.

Starting with LTO-5, an index was added to the beginning of the tape that identifies the locations of the files. Partitioning, combined with the LTFS file system, makes LTO tape operate more like a disk (see LTFS). For information, visit www.lto.org. See WORM, magnetic tape and tape cartridge.

LTO-M (LTO-7 Cartridges for LTO-8)
New LTO-7 cartridges can be initialized as LTO-M media for LTO-8 drives and store 9TB instead of 6TB. However, LTO-M cartridges cannot be read in LTO-7 drives.

An LTO (Ultrium) Cartridge
The tape is drawn out of the cartridge to a take-up reel inside the LTO drive.

     LTO   Raw Tape  EEPROM      Hardware
 Generation   (GB)   (KB)  WORM  Encrypt

 LTO-12     192000 |
 LTO-11      96000 | projected
 LTO-10      48000 |

 LTO-9       24000 | expected in 2020

 LTO-8 2017  12000    8     X       X
 LTO-7 2015   6000    8     X       X
 LTO-6 2012   2500    8     X       X
 LTO-5 2010   1500    8     X       X
 LTO-4 2007    800    8     X       X
 LTO-3 2005    400    4     X
 LTO-2 2003    200    4
 LTO-1 2000    100    4