IBM Claims Major Breakthrough in Tape Density
January 25, 2010 Alex Woodie
IBM last week announced a major technological breakthrough in linear tape design that it says will allow tape cartridges to hold 35 TB of uncompressed data, or 44 times the capacity of an LTO 4 tape cartridge. What’s more, IBM says the new techniques and technologies that it and Fujifilm came up with will allow the storage medium–which seems perpetually on death’s door–to increase in capacity for years to come.
The big capacity breakthrough is actually the result of several separate, but related, innovations that allow for many more tracks of data to be squeezed onto a half-inch wide tape, and for the bits to be stacked much closer together along each of those lines, across the entire length of the tape.
The advancements in the magnetic tape discipline were made by scientists working at the IBM Research facility in Zurich, Switzerland, in cooperation with Fujifilm scientists in Japan. Researchers from IBM’s lab in Almaden, California, were also involved in the work. The innovations include:
IBM says that to accomplish its capacity breakthrough in the new design (which doesn’t have a name yet), it needed to increase the length of the tape by 12 percent relative to the LTO 4 cartridge. But this increase compensates for the reduced thickness of the BaFe medium relative to LTO 4, so it is a wash.
The breakthrough will keep tape relevant for years to come, says Cindy Grossman, a vice president in IBM’s Tape and Archive Storage Systems division. “This exciting achievement shows that tape storage is alive and strong and will continue to provide users reliable data protection, while maintaining a cost advantage over other storage technologies, including hard disk drives and flash,” Grossman states in IBM’s announcement.
IBM says the new tape technology will allow data centers to keep storage costs down as the amount of data generated continues to increase at an exponential basis. The storage curve will continue to get steeper as the world continues to digitize, replicate, and archive data generated from all walks of life.
The new technology will also further tape’s reputation as a cost-effective and green technology. On a per-gigabyte basis, IBM says tape costs about 10 to 20 percent of hard drive storage systems. Much of this savings is due to the fact that tape is considerably more energy efficient than spinning hard drives.