The tape path used for data read back in IBM's world record tape storage demonstration

IBM sets new tape data storage record

IBM has set a new record for storing data on super-cheap tape drives achieving a storage density of 220 terabytes per cartridge.

Scientists at IBM Research have demonstrated a recording density of 123 billion bits of uncompressed data per square inch on a new, advanced prototype  particulate magnetic tape developed by FujiFilm in collaboration with IBM scientists.

This translates to a standard tape cartridge that could fit in the palm of the hand being able to hold the equivalent of the text of 220 million books – an 88-fold improvement over the industry-standard LTO6 cartridge and a 22-fold improvement over IBM’s current enterprise class tape product.

“With this demonstration, we prove again that tape will continue to play an important role in the storage hierarchy for years to come,” said IBM Fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou. “This milestone reaffirms IBM's continued commitment and leadership in magnetic tape technology.”

Achieving the record required IBM researchers to develop a set of advanced servo control technologies, enhanced write field head technology and new signal-processing algorithms for the data channel.

A research prototype of the technology will be demonstrated next week at the US National Association of Broadcasters' 2015 NAB Show in Las Vegas and additional technical details will be revealed next month at the 2015 Intermag conference in Beijing and the IBM EDGE conference in Las Vegas.

Tape storage typically costs just pennies per gigabyte and is typically used for storing large amounts of back-up and archival data due to its price and highly durability, but IBM Research scientists in Zurich are now exploring the integration of tape technology with cloud storage systems such as OpenStack Swift to allow users to seamlessly migrate cold data to tape.

ETH Zurich, a leading international university based in Switzerland, is using IBM tape technology for central data back-up and restore services.

“The average data transfer rate to tape has increased steeply over the years to approximately 60 terabytes daily and our tape library has reached more than 5.5 petabytes,” said Dr Tilo Steiger, deputy head of ITS System Services at ETHZ.

“Despite advances in overall storage technology, tape is still a promising media for large amounts of data for its transferability of data in Linear Tape File System applications and its low energy consumption.”

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