Data center with tape drives

Planning an LTO-9 Migration Strategy

With the introduction of Linear Tape Open (LTO) Ultrium 9 standard, many enterprises are considering (or actively planning for) migration.

LTO-9 boasts a 50% increase in capacity over LTO-8, with a compressed capacity of 45 terabytes (TB). It’s also substantially faster: Uncompressed data transfer rates can reach 400 megabytes per second (MBps). 

If you’re considering LTO-9 migration, there’s good news: Migrating from LTO-8 is straightforward, thanks to the LTO format’s backwards-compatibility. But every migration project requires thoughtful planning — and a qualified data partner can make a difference.

Below, we’ll discuss several general tips for LTO-9 migration. If you’re ready to discuss your migration project, send us a message to connect with an expert.

Determine which tapes will be part of the migration. 

Few data centers will need to perform a 1:1 tape migration; if you’re ready to upgrade, there’s a good chance that you’ll eliminate certain legacy tapes. That’s particularly true if your archives include cartridges in several different formats; part of the goal of the migration is to simplify your backup/archival infrastructure. 

To perform an accurate analysis, collect as much information as possible about current backups and archives. At the bare minimum, your notes should include:

  • The total number of tape cartridges in each format.
  • The names and versions of the backup applications.
  • The age of the oldest data sets.

With the information in front of you, you’ll be able to make informed decisions. You may decide to let older data sets age out before the process starts, or you may elect to purchase additional legacy hardware to improve the efficiency of the migration.

Understand the limits of LTO’s backwards compatibility. 

Most generations of LTO are backwards-compatible for two generations. However, that changed with LTO-8. If you have LTO-7 tapes — or any older cartridges — you’ll need to make considerations for hardware when planning the migration. 

The bottom line: LTO-9 drives can read LTO-8 tapes, at LTO-8 speeds (no faster). LTO-9 hardware cannot read LTO-7 or earlier, for a simple reason: LTO-9 and LTO-8 drives use TMR (Tunneling Magnetoresistive) read/write heads, which allow for a substantially higher areal density. 

Once again, it’s wise to ask a few quick questions:

  • Will the tape migration project include older LTO formats? 
  • If so, do I have sufficient hardware to migrate the older tapes with reasonable efficiency?
  • What will be the approximate timeframe of the migration, given the performance limitations of backwards-compatible LTO-9 drives? 

At this point, you can begin making purchasing decisions about LTO-9 hardware. Remember, you’re not planning just for the migration — you’re making long-term decisions that affect your organization’s scalability. 

Choose hardware for the migration.

LTO-9 drives are available as Full Height and Half Height models. Apart from their physical dimensions, the only difference between the two is performance: 

  • LTO-9 Full Height drives have a native conformance of up to 400MBps (1000 MBps compressed). When accessing LTO-8 cartridges, LTO-9 Full Height drives can reach speeds of 360 MBps (900 MBps compressed).
  • LTO-9 Half Height drives have a native conformance of up to 300MBps (500 MBps compressed). They can read LTO-8 cartridges with approximately the same performance.

Of course, a major reason for migration is improved throughput — but half height drives may be a practical addition to your infrastructure, particularly if you’re handling a large migration from LTO-8 on your own. 

Don’t assign the migration to an overworked IT team.

Every tape migration project has unique challenges. In general, IT teams can handle those challenges, but handling those challenges efficiently is another story. 

By working with a data partner, you can remove many of the bottlenecks that impact major tape migration projects. That’s particularly true when moving to a current-generation format: Your partner can help you select datasets for migration, manage hardware, and maintain appropriate security controls throughout the process.

At Total Data Migration, we’re dedicated to providing our clients with best-practice guidance during major migration and catalog ingestion projects. Features of our services include:

  • Options for onsite and remote migration.
  • An extensive library of legacy hardware and backup software, which allows for reliable turnaround times.
  • Dedicated experts with decades of experience in at-scale data management. 
  • Resources for tape cartridge data recovery, data conversion, and secure data sanitization.

If your organization is considering an LTO-9 tape migration project, we’re ready to help. Contact us at (800) 460-7599 to schedule a free consultation or click here for email contact info.