IBM Estimates 35 Terabyte Capacity on Its Newly Developed Linear Magnetic Tape

Researchers at IBM have just announced that the company demoed a claimed world record in what regards areal data density on linear magnetic tape, giving a significant update to one of the computer industry’s most resilient, reliable and affordable data storage technologies.

“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,” said Cindy Grossman, vice president, IBM Tape and Archive Storage Systems.

I don’t really get why this enthusiasm with magnetic tape (that can get demagnetized by accident very easily) when other researchers found a lot better solutions for long-term storage. Nevertheless, they win at IBM, especially since this breakthrough comes to prove that tape technology can increase capacity for years to come, providing some important applications, as tape storage systems are a lot more efficient in both energy and cost than hard disk storage systems.

We all know the jazz with data storage nowadays, as our physical world becomes fuller and fuller of sensors that constantly record. Maybe not all data, but definitely a significant part needs to be archived and replicated for recovery in the eventuality of worst case scenarios. What the researchers at IBM managed to do, is to squeeze 29.5 billion bits per square inch, on a prototype magnetic tape, which is about 39 times more data-dense than the current standard.

For this, the company developed several new technologies, and closely worked with FujiFilm for the paste three years, for optimizing the next generation dual-coat magnetic tape based on barium ferrite particles. Thanks to the new technology, researchers estimate that mankind could benefit from cartridges with capacities of up to 35 terabytes, of uncompressed data, namely sufficient to store text of 35 million books that would physically require around 400 kilometers of bookshelves. Also, with such a capacity, I can only think of a worst case scenario, with the possibility of losing a large amount of data over somebody accidentally enabling an electromagnet.

“This tape storage density demonstration represents a step towards developing technologies to achieve tape areal recording densities of 100 billion bits per square inch and beyond. Such technologies will be necessary to keep up with the rapid increase in digital information. IBM is in the unique position to help clients store, maintain and analyze the wealth of data accumulating, and thus help them achieve efficiencies and advantages in the way they do business,” comments Evangelos Eleftheriou, IBM Fellow.

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