Open standard wins again. This time in tape drive technology for backup and archiving.

In the war of “industry standard” vs. proprietary technology the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), or rather its legacy, has lost another battle. This time at stake was a tape format for backup and archiving. The proprietary DLT (Digital Linear Tape) format, originally created by DEC and later purchased by Quantum, has lost to the LTO (Linear Tape Open) technology developed by HP, IBM and Seagate. Interestingly, after Seagate spun off the tape business via Certance, Quantum decided to buy it and became part of LTO consortium itself.

The CEO of Quantum Rick Belluzzo said in an interview with Bryan Betts from The Register that DLT would “slide out of the way” and “there has been massive consolidation onto LTO”. The phase out of DLT technology will occur as quickly as in two years.

I couldn’t find any information about End of Life for DLT at www.quantum.com so I got in touch with Bryan who told me that he interviewed Belluzzo at CeBIT just a couple of weeks ago. Bryan also mentioned that the Wikipedia page on DLT claims that the decision to end development was taken in February.

The end of DLT technology is important news for tens of thousands of backup administrators who write exabytes of data to DLT tape drives. Just recently we conducted survey of Amanda users and almost 30% reported using DLT or SDLT tape drives. For regulatory compliance many organizations are required to keep tapes for 7-10 years or even longer. With Quantum dropping support for DLT, recovering all those DLT and SDLT tapes 10 years from now could be a challenge.

Amanda works well with all tape drive technologies, but often customers ask for our tape recommendations. We always advise to consider the following:

  • Reliability
  • Transfer rate
  • Capacity
  • Cost

From now on, we will add one more factor to consider — probability of tape drive vendor killing its own technology.
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Dmitri Joukovski

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