IBM Research Centre presents high-density magnetic tape

IBM Research Centre presents high-density magnetic tape


In a new world record, IBM scientists using Sony's "Magnetic Tape" managed to capture 330 terabytes of uncompressed data.

Tape storage is nearly as old as computing itself, and it is still used for what's referred to as "cold storage", or data that doesn't need to be accessed very frequently, such as financial records.

To achieve this breakthrough, IBM said that in collaboration with Sony it had to create several new technologies that would significantly boost the tape's storage density, otherwise known as areal density. IBM Research Exploratory Tape Scientist Mark Lantz (pictured above) explained that the company has demonstrated the ability to record at an areal density of 201 gigabits per square inch (Gb/in2) on magnetic tape.

To achieve this capacity, Big Blue researchers developed new technologies. IBM's first tape unit used reels of half-inch-wide tape that could only hold about 2 megabytes.

When these tapes are combined in a capsule or cartridge, they can store approximately 330TB of data whereas the same cartridge with the existing technology will provide a storage of 15TB.

Like all data storage methods, magnetic tapes have pluses and minuses. As a result, it's usually covered in a thin layer of iron oxide or chromium particles which are magnetized or de-magnetized by a machine to create individual bits of data-aka the ones and zeroes that make digital communications possible.

"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".

This latest milestone, according to IBM, shows that it's viable to continue scaling up storage on tape drives for at least another decade.

Some of the earliest computers relied upon tape drives for storage, but we've since moved on to faster and more versatile storage technologies. Recent developments in the growing Internet of Things sector along with the popularization of cloud services have resulted in increased demand for high capacity data storage media. These include signal-processing algorithms for the data channel, based on noise-predicted detection principles and novel low friction tape head technology that permits the use of very smooth tape media.

  • Terrell Bush