Computers

IBM sets new tape storage record

IBM sets new tape storage reco...
A hand-sized tape cartridge of the new tape could hold the equivalent of 220 terabytes of data
A hand-sized tape cartridge of the new tape could hold the equivalent of 220 terabytes of data
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Growth rate of tape memory
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Growth rate of tape memory
Test rig for the new IBM computer tape
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Test rig for the new IBM computer tape
Progression of tape memory in recent years
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Progression of tape memory in recent years
IBM infographic on the new tape
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IBM infographic on the new tape
The new tape uses a a high-density barium ferrite medium
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The new tape uses a a high-density barium ferrite medium
A hand-sized tape cartridge of the new tape could hold the equivalent of 220 terabytes of data
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A hand-sized tape cartridge of the new tape could hold the equivalent of 220 terabytes of data
The new tape uses a high-density barium ferrite medium
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The new tape uses a high-density barium ferrite medium
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For many people, tape memory is a dead technology found only on reel-to-reel computers in old 1960s movies. However, it’s still a major storage medium and a new breakthrough by IBM Research and Fuji Film has produced a low-cost particulate magnetic tape with a record density of 123 billion bits of uncompressed data per square inch, which represents 88 times more capacity than 2012's LTO-6 tape cartridge.

When the first half-inch-wide computer tape was invented in 1952, it had about 2 megabytes per reel of storage. Previously, the main storage medium was punch cards, but the development of electronic computers produced machines that soon operated at the limits of the speed of punch card systems.

Plastic tape seemed a viable alternative, but even in the 1950s, the speed that tapes had to run was more than the plastic could handle without stretching or tearing, so elaborate mechanical buffers, vacuum columns, and magnetic readers were developed so the tapes could run back and forth quickly without putting too much strain on the plastic.

The new tape uses a high-density barium ferrite medium
The new tape uses a high-density barium ferrite medium

Over the years, hard drives, CDs, DVDs, and solid state memory came along, but tape is still very much a mainstream technology used in backups, disaster replicas, video, archiving and other renditions, with over 500 exabytes of data currently on tape.

The new IBM tape has an areal density 110,000,000 times greater than IBM’s first tape drive, which could result in a hand-sized tape cartridge that holds the equivalent of 220 terabytes of data. IBM compares this to 220 million books that would need 2,200 km (1,367 mi) of bookshelf.

The new tape is the result of 13 years of work on a high-density barium ferrite tape combined with new control technology for read-write heads involving advanced servo control technologies, a high bandwidth head actuator, and a set of tape-speed, optimized, H-infinity, track-follow controllers that place the head within 6 nanometers; allowing a track density of 181,300 tracks per inch. This new recording medium combined with noise-predictive detection technology makes possible an ultra-narrow 90 nm-wide Giant MagnetoResistive (GMR) reader.

Test rig for the new IBM computer tape
Test rig for the new IBM computer tape

IBM sees the new tape technology as having applications in big data and cloud computing at a cost of pennies per gigabyte. One example of this is the company’s OpenStack Swift, which lets users inexpensively migrate cold data to a highly durable cloud based storage tier.

A research prototype of the new tape drive is on display at the 2015 National Association Broadcasters Show.

The video below discusses the new IBM storage tape.

Source: IBM

IBM Research sets new record for tape storage

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6 comments
moreover
Great news for people who produce video. This makes it feasible to archive entire projects as opposed to just selected files. Perhaps this could cut electricity use for data storage farms when tape is used as a backup in conjunction with hard drive based primary storage. Note that lots of stored data is rarely ever recalled. Or there could be storage plans without instant access where you have to schedule retrieval ahead of time.
Daishi
@moreover There are a few places that do cold data storage now like Amazon Glacier: http://aws.amazon.com/glacier/pricing/
Glacier is a penny per GB. I don't use it but it seems like a good way for people that use a NAS to back it up to the cloud cheaply. Lifehacker has a guide on using it as a backup here: http://lifehacker.com/how-to-use-amazon-glacier-as-a-dirt-cheap-backup-solut-1460814873
It might take several hours to get my data when I need its the only cleap method I have to backup the files on my NAS. Right now I only back up photos because pushing video to most services would be too expensive so I'll probably give it a shot.
Kevin Ritchey
Gee, does this mean the possible comeback of the Compact Cassette, VHS, and my favorite, 8mm Digital video tape (which I still use)? Please, make it so.
DonGateley
Given IBM's deep understanding and 50+ years of experience with storage hierarchy this could allow them to own the market for cloud storage. Combine that with their long experience with system virtualization and high performance computing and they might end up owning the cloud in toto.
As an an alumnus that would tickle me pink. :-)
Gregg Eshelman
LTO has one major problem. The drives cost too much! Where is the consumer marketed desktop internal and external LTO drive?
The tapes are comparatively dirt cheap and LTO is the only media that is not a hard drive that can backup current large drives uncompressed onto a single piece of media.
Sell an LTO drive priced in the low hundreds of $ instead of over $3,600 and the market will take off like a rocket, leading to even lower prices for the drives.
Price it right and all the videographers/editors will buy one. All TV stations will buy several drives for their news departments.
Kristianna Thomas
Tape has it over disks due to its larger capacity, but disks have it over tape due to its higher read/write speeds (RAM). If tape had higher read/write speeds it would out shine disks in every way. If the tape is a closed loop and not an open loop, with multiple heads, would the cost of such a system be more advantageous? In order to shrink the length of the tape, in a closed loop system, would the tape be 2, 3, or 4 inches? In a open loop system there is only one read/write and erase heads, but what would happen if there were 2, 4, or 6 heads in a continuous closed loop configuration?