IBM and Sony Create Magnetic Tape That Can Store 330TB Of Uncompressed Data. Record-Breaking

The future of data storage is here, which are magnetic tapes. Scientists at IBM Research have created a new world record for storing over 330TB of uncompressed data on a single tape cartridge that can easily fit into the palm of a person’s hand. This storage capacity is more than the world’s biggest hard drives that are capable of holding about 330 million books.

The record set by IBM in collaboration with Sony Storage Media Solutions can support data storage densities of 201 GB per square inch which is more than 20 times the density of commercial tape drives that hold data between 5 GB and 7 GB per square inch. The researchers showcased this feat at the 28th Magnetic Recording Conference (TMRC 2017) in Japan.

This is the fifth time that IBM’s scientists have set a world record of tape storage since 2006, when at that time density was a measly 6.67GB per square inch with total cartridge capacity of 8 terabytes. The last time IBM announced it had made advancements in the space was in 2015 when the cartridge capacity was 220 terabytes and 123 gigabytes per square inch.

The achievement by IBM comes as good news for cloud services providers who need to back up and store ever-expanding volumes of information from big data applications ranging to scientific research to security and surveillance videos all the time.

In order to develop the new tape-based storage prototype and to achieve the 201GB per square inch, IBM researchers had to develop several new technologies. IBM worked closely with Sony for several years, particularly on enabling increased areal recording densities.

The results of this collaboration have led to various improvements in the media technology, such as advanced roll-to-roll technology for long sputtered tape fabrication and better lubricant technology, which stabilizes the functionality of the magnetic tape.

IBM made use of its reading and writing technology with Sony’s “sputtered magnetic tape” to store data. Sputtering involves coating the storage medium with several nanometer-thin layers of different conducting materials, including a five-nanometer overcoat of diamond-like carbon. The scientists also used several layers of nano particles to extend the tape length. Further, IBM also incorporated their advanced servo control technologies, and innovative signal-processing algorithms.

The prototype developed by IBM and Sony uses sputtered magnetic tape to store data. Sputtering involves coating the storage medium with several nanometer-thin layers of different conducting materials, including a five-nanometer overcoat of diamond-like carbon.

Tape has traditionally been used for video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery and retention of information on premise, but the industry is also expanding to off-premise applications in the cloud, said IBM Fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou in a press statement.
While sputtered tape is expected to cost a little more to manufacture than current commercial tape that uses Barium ferrite (BaFe), the potential for very high capacity will make the cost per TB very attractive, making this technology practical for cold storage in the cloud.

Magnetic tape data storage that dates back to the 1950s, were traditionally used for archiving tax documents and health care records. These tapes continue to develop, and are expected to become more practical for use in cloud computing in the future.

As IBM explains, tape storage is still “most secure, energy efficient and cost-effective solution” for storing large amounts of data, and useful for backing up data, even with cloud computing.

Sony Storage Media Solutions indicated the possibility of continuing to ‘scale up’ storage on tapes for another decade.

Speaking on the sputtered magnetic technology, IBM exploratory tape scientist Mark Lantz said that this recent development can continue to be record-breaking in the generations to come.

This really demonstrates the potential to continue scaling tape technology basically at historical rates of doubling the cartridge capacity every two years for at least the next 10 years. That’s really good news for our customers that could rely on tape technology. It’s kind of an integral part of their storage infrastructure to really preserve their data in a cost-effective manner.
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