by Josh Shaman

HP StoreEver LTO-6 Ultrium 6250 Review (EH970A)

HP's LTO-6 Ultrium 6250, the sixth and latest iteration in the Ultrium tape drive series, is designed for server customers using DAS environments who require superior data transfer rates and long-term cost efficiency over other forms of storage. The Ultrium 6250 hosts a major update over previous generation models with its 6GB/s SAS interface that connects directly to SAS-based-servers. Additionally, the Ultrium 6250 has backwards-compatability, writing to and reading fifth generation tapes and reading fourth generation tapes. The latest sixth generation tapes now have an expanded capacity that ranges up to 6.25TB of uncompressed data. With a ratio of 2.5:1, that still provides users with 2.5TB of compressed data, which is 1TB more than LTO-5 offered.

Ultrium 6250 tape drives also provide a host of features. To start, HP TapeAssure enables tape drive management, and it also supports LTFS and AES 256-bit encryption. Transfer rates range up to 1.44TB per hour (compressed 2.5:1). Additionally, HP has a unique feature other brands don't offer which is its Exclusive Rate Matching that matches host speed to keep drives streaming well and to increase lifetime reliability.

The HP LTO-6 Ultrium 6250 is available now and is priced at $4,199, which includes one 6.25TB tape. Tape media comes in at a very low dollar-per-gigabyte cost with a 6.25TB capacity (2.5TB compressed) tape running $101.99.

HP LTO-6 Ultrium 6250 Specifications

  • Buffer Size: 512MB
  • Included Capacity: 6.25TB Compressed 2.5:1
  • Transfer rate: 1.45 TB/hr
  • Host interface: 6 Gb/sec SAS
  • Encryption capability: AES 256-bit
  • WORM capability: Yes
  • Form factor: 5.25-inch half-height
  • Weight: 17.64 lb (8 Kg)
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 11.73 x 3.11 x 8.86 in (29.8 x 7.9 x 22.5 cm)
  • Warranty: 3 year
  • Power Consumption: 24.5 Watts typical; 39 Watts max
  • Operating Temperature 50° F to 104° F (10° C to 40° C) if 5CFM airflow is provided
  • Non-Operating Temperature -40° F to 151° F (-40° C to 66° C)
  • Non-condensing humidity range:
  • Operating: 20 to 80% RH (Non-condensing, max wet bulb temperature=26C)
  • Non-Operating: 10 to 95% RH (Non-condensing, max wet bulb temperature=26C)

Design and Build

HP designed the StoreEver LTO-6 Ultrium 6250 external drive in the same vein as its previous generations of Ultriums. These drives are designed to be extremely safe and secure forms of storage and are built tough. The Ultrium 6250 is a 5.25" form factor surrounded by solid black metal. The front displays the HP Ultrium branding. Also, it features the unit's power button on the left side and has a flip open drive slot where users can insert the capacity-robust 6.25TB tapes or other compatible tapes. There's also an eject button when it's time to switch tapes. Additionally, five indicator lights line the tape-insert reading: encryption, clean, tape, drive, and ready. These LEDs communicate a variety of different messages to users about the status of the Ultrium 6250 external drive.

The sides of the unit as well as the top and bottom feature very little and align with the unit's minimalistic design. The sides each have two rubberized grips that stretch top to bottom to provide solid friction to keep the drive secure. The bottom of the unit is labeled with the standard information (model, serial number, country of origin, etc.). Also, on the bottom of the unit users will find a transparent orange window that gives a view of a gear. This is actually an emergency-only maintenance component that allows users to manually wind a tape.

Rounding out the design, the rear of the unit houses the connectivity - one SAS input and the power input. There is also a ventilated grill to help the unit's fan keep the Ultrium 6250 cool. 

Performance

To measure the performance of the Ultrium 6250, we fed a unique backup directory of data to the HP LTO-6 Ultrium 6250. This data is comprised of benchmark output files, photos, video, ISO images and other files that we've collected over the past year. To saturate the tape drive and offer the best transfer performance, we copied this dataset from our network storage device to our HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 equipped with an Intel SSD 910 that offered read performance far surpassing the write speed of the StoreEver LTO-6. The benchmark data was delivered in the form of a 296GB uncompressed zip file to contain the entire directory and offset some of the performance issues that arise when trying to copy a bunch of small files to tape. The file took 31 minutes and 42 seconds to write, and when written worked out to 250GB of used space. The numbers total to an approximate write speed of 148MB/s.

Our second performance test kept the directory of nearly 400,000 files outside of a zip file and wrote them natively to the LTO-6 tape. This shows more of a worst-case scenario where optimizations haven't been made to speed up the data archival process. This test started with 296GB of data contained on an Intel SSD 910 and required 1 hour, 31 minutes and 51 seconds to complete. That time works out to roughly 49MB/s.

Conclusion

The HP LTO-6 Ultrium 6250 external tape drive enables users to install a very low cost solution in their storage facility. The tapes now come in capacities ranging up to 6.25TB of uncompressed data or 2.5TB compressed. Adding to that, the drive also accepts LTO-5 tapes, reading and writing to them, and reads LTO-4 tapes. The Ultrium 6250 also now interfaces via 6GB/s SAS. Other significant features include tape drive management and supported LTFS and AES 256-bit encryption.

Additionally, the HP LTO-6 tapes feature enhancements over LTO-5 that are impressive and shouldn't be overlooked. To start, while the LTO-5 drives compressed at a ratio of 2:1, LTO-6 features compression at a ratio of 2.5:1. That boost is one of the factors that helps capacity rise up to 2.5TB from 1.5TB on LTO-5. The HP Ultrium 6250 drive itself has improved hardware compression meaning that before the data is even written to the tapes, it has better compression. The result here is that users will be able to store more information because it will be better compressed. Additionally, that data will be written more quickly since LTO-6 features improved data transfer speeds ranging up to 160MB/s from 140MB/s on LTO-5. In our tests, we measured transfer speeds ranging from 148MB/s transfering a large containerized file down to 49MB/s transfering that same dataset natively.

Pros

  • Up to 6.25TB uncompressed storage, 2.5TB native capacity
  • Much lower price-per-gigabyte for tapes than other storage
  • Up to 160MB/s transfer speed

Cons

  • Initial investment cost for the drive itself

Bottom Line

The HP LTO-6 Ultrium 6250 provides users with a storage option that is extremely cost-efficient, and it features several enhancements over the previous generation for securely storing and archiving data as well as boosting overall transfer speeds.

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