HPE StoreEver LTO-7 Ultrium 15000 review

There’s plenty of life in tape backup yet. HPE’s seventh-generation LTO drive is fast and capacious

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£2,618
  • Excellent read/write speeds; High capacity;

Linear tape open, or LTO, has become the dominant tape format for low-cost data archiving, and the seventh generation brings some significant upgrades. Native transfer rates and cartridge capacities are boosted to 300MB/sec and 6TB, while maximum hardware compression remains as LTO-6, at 2.5:1. That translates to theoretical backup speeds of 750MB/sec, and cartridge capacities that are up to a whopping 15TB in size.

LTO-7 media also sees a move from Metal Particle (MP) to Barium Ferrite (BaFe), which has superior magnetic properties essential for delivering the increased areal density for future LTO generations. The drives maintain backward compatibility with earlier media; LTO-7 units can both read and write LTO-6 MP and BaFe media, and read earlier LTO-5 MP cartridges.

HPE is the first to market with an LTO-7 backup unit, its StoreEver LTO-7 Ultrium 15000 external drive. To test it, we called on a Boston Fenway 2224-0T rack server equipped with dual 2.2GHz E5-2650 v4 Xeons, 64GB of RAM and a super-fast Intel P3500 NVMe SSD. We loaded it with Windows Server 2012 R2 and installed the A-Listed Arcserve Backup r17 suite while the tape drive was hooked up to an HPE H241 SAS3 HBA.

Arcserve Backup r17 comes with native LTO-7 support. For full performance you must change Tape Engine block size from the default 64KB to 512KB, an easy Registry hack that will nearly double throughput.

For our first test, we backed up and restored a 100GB dataset of highly compressible files located on the NVMe SSD. The backup completed at an average write rate of 374MB/sec, and we were able to restore the data at an average of 294MB/sec, with Arcserve recording an impressive peak speed of 414MB/sec during the backup. Repeating the test with a 40GB mix of large bitmap photos still gave impressive speeds, although writing and restoring dropped to 319MB/sec and 234MB/sec.

Our third test proved tougher. We used a 22.4GB mix of 10,500 small files comprising documents, presentations, graphics, databases and PDFs. This was backed up and restored at overall rates of 183MB/sec and 127MB/sec.

LTO isn't solely a destination for dedicated backup software. Linear tape file system, or LTFS, allows a tape to be presented directly to the host OS as a hard disk. Using HPE's free StoreOpen Standalone utility, we formatted an LTO-7 cartridge that appeared to Windows as a 5.2TB RAM disk and could be used for tasks such as drag-and-drop copies.

Not surprisingly, using a linear medium in this way doesn't yield maximum performance, but speeds were still respectable; our 100GB dataset was backed up and restored at speeds of 121MB/sec and 184MB/sec. With the 40GB photo collection, we saw average read and write speeds of 103MB/sec and 159MB/sec.

Data security during transit and rest is well provided. Drives from LTO-4 onwards can perform 256-bit AES hardware encryption with any backup software that supports key management, such as Arcserve Backup r17. Another good feature is support for write once read many (WORM) media. This allows sensitive data to be archived in a non-modifiable state, to ensure compliance with data-protection rules.

And when it comes to long-term reliability, you should have no concerns. We took an LTO-6 MP cartridge that had been created by Arcserve Backup r16 three years ago. Arcserve Backup r17 read it perfectly from our LTO-7 drive and restored its 7GB of data in less than two minutes.

Tape backup may seem like old technology but LTO has a bright future; the product roadmap now extends to LTO-10, which will offer 48TB native capacity. An increasing number of businesses are seeing the value of tape as a low-cost, reliable medium for long-term data archiving. With the HPE StoreEver LTO-7 Ultrium 15000 ushering in a big hike in performance and capacity, this is a great time to invest.

Dave Mitchell

This review originally appeared in PC PRO issue 263.

Verdict

Tape backup may seem like old technology but LTO has a bright future. With the HPE StoreEver LTO-7 Ultrium 15000 ushering in a big hike in performance and capacity, this is a great time to invest.

External half-height Ultrium LTO-7 tape drive

Native capacity 6TB

Native transfer rate 300MB/sec

1GB buffer l 6Gbits/sec SAS interface

Read/write compatible with LTO-6

Read compatible with LTO-5

225 x 300 x 80mm (WDH)

3yr parts warranty. Options: HPE H241 SAS HBA, £125

HPE LTO-7 cartridge (C7977A), £122

HPE LTO-7 WORM cartridge (C7977W), £122 (all exc VAT)

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