Tape lives! IBM and Fujifilm release record 50-TB memory tape

Tape lives! IBM and Fujifilm release record 50-TB memory tape
The 50-TB tape is designed for the IBM TS1170 cartridge drive
The 50-TB tape is designed for the IBM TS1170 cartridge drive
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The 50-TB tape is designed for the IBM TS1170 cartridge drive
The 50-TB tape is designed for the IBM TS1170 cartridge drive

You may think that computer tape memories died out before Rubik's cubes came in, but IBM and Fujifilm have teamed up to develop a record-breaking new sixth-generation tape storage system that can backup a whopping 50 TB of data.

For most people, tape-based storage technology only survives in museums and old science fiction movies. In the popular imagination, they're synonymous with a time when computers were gigantic mainframes weighing tonnes that stored their data on huge reel-to-reel tape machines the size of wardrobes with reels big as dinner platters.

They were the dominant storage medium of the 1960s and over the years they were supplanted by new and improving technologies, including disc drives, solid state memories and the like. However, they didn't vanish, as a visit to any server farm will demonstrate as they are routinely used for backup storage as insurance against, fire, hacking, and other mishaps.

Tapes have a lot of disadvantages. They can't be accessed at random, uploading and downloading means running the entire tape from beginning to end, they're bulky, the drives cost a lot, and are slow to copy. On the other hand, the tapes themselves are cheap, they have a very large storage capacity, are portable, and are impossible to hack once removed from the drive.

The new tape is designed for IBM's 3592 JF tape cartridge for the company's TS1170 drive and is being produced by Fujifilm. Though it is rated at a record 50 TB, that's only in non-compressed mode. Compressed, the tape can handle a staggering 150 TB.

This is achieved by using nanoparticle technology and fine hybrid magnetic particles made out of Strontium Ferrite (SrFe) magnetic particles and Barium Ferrite (BaFe) particles. These are much smaller than previous particles and are spread very evenly to provide more memory capacity per square inch and a larger recording area.

In addition, the tape itself is 15% longer thanks to a thinner and stronger base film to support the magnetic layer.

"The advanced technology in the IBM 3592 JF tape cartridge will enable customers to realize high densities, which facilitates storage cost optimization while maintaining performance and time to data," said Alistair Symon, Vice President of Storage Systems Development at IBM. "This is the first tape storage medium with 50 TB native capacity, and it demonstrates tape's viability as an optimal choice for data protection, active archives and long-term retention in scientific data, industrial data collection and cloud service provider environments."

Source: IBM

Why not make larger diameter hard disks, say, the size of laser disks? They would enable instant access.
@windykites, You're talking about going backwards. In the 1970s, hard disk drives for mainframes had 14" platters in removable packs. The packs were huge and heavy, the enclosure they had to be put into even bigger. Wasting that much space for backup storage, which these tapes are designed for, doesn't make sense. Not to mention they'd be very expensive, while tapes are cheap. Not good for multiple sets of backups.
Why not just use multiple portable hard disks or flash memory drives? Small and cheap.
Bill Marks
The tape is made of a flexible plastic material and will, over time, turn to fine dust. The plasticizer in it gasses off. That is why cheap plastic parts crack and break over time. Not a good storage material. Nylon, which is an expensive engineering thermoplastic, has water as its plasticizer and lasts even in the desert where 10% humidity is all it needs. Know your materials or mistakes will be made. Yes, even your cassette music collection will turn to dust.
Micro SD comes in 1TB, reads faster than tape, I bet 100% it lasts longer, and 5000 of them would take up less space than 1 tape.
Wow, will you guys just listen to yourselves? Portable hard drives and SD cards are "cheap?" A 4TB hard drive goes for an average of $100 right now. That's $1200 for about 50TB. SD cards are even worse at over $100 per TB, so $5000. One of these tapes will probably cost about $200. And tapes will turn to dust? Who cares? Anybody who knows anything about institutional or corporate archival data storage practices knows you have to resave the files onto new media periodically if you really want to keep them safe. Even the SD Association would tell you SD cards don't last forever and data on them may be corrupted after a few years.
An indexing system is what is needed to find files on tape. Surely that exists. And a redundant reverse file sequence would obviate having to go through the whole length or even half of it to get to specific files. Most users would never fill one 50TB tape. The story doesn't give pricing for the device or the tape. Also would need to know how it will be retailed.