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Sony And IBM Smash Tape Storage Record With 330TB

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Tape not dead just yet, as Sony and IBM team up to cram more density on magnetic tape storage

Sony and IBM have claimed an industry record with the news that the two have the highest recording areal density for tape storage media.

They announced the achievement of a staggering 201 Gb/in2 (gigabits per square inch), which essentially means they loaded 201 billion bits of uncompressed data into each square inch of tape.

The achievement was possible thanks to the combination of Sony’s new magnetic tape technology that utilises lubricant, along with IBM Research – Zurich’s newly developed write/read heads, servo control technologies and signal-processing algorithms.

Slippery Tape

These new tapes can support  high-capacity storage of approximately 330 terabytes (TB) per data cartridge, whereas conventional technology can currently only handle 15 TB per data cartridge.

The development comes amid a growing data deluge generated by the Internet of Things, cloud services, and big data. All of these developments are placing greater demands on the storage sector to come up with higher capacity mediums to store all this information.

“It is against this background that magnetic tape shows great potential as a storage media thanks to its various strengths, including its capacity for storing data over long periods of time, low power consumption, low cost, and space saving capabilities,” said Sony.

It pointed out that closing the gap (spacing) between the magnetic tape and magnetic head is critical to achieving high-density recording capabilities for tape storage media.

The reduction of space does mean increased friction at contact points between the tape surface and magnetic head, and this is where the Sony designed lubricant comes in to reduce friction and allow the tape surface to run smoothly along the magnetic head to enable high-capacity writing and reading at a high speed.

Sony said it hopes to use these advances to forge ahead with the development of magnetic tape technologies. It hopes to soon commercialise this next-generation tape storage media.

Tape Death

It was back in 2014 when Sony revealed it had developed new magnetic tape technology capable of storing 185TB of data on a single cartridge.

This was despite the fact that for years now, some experts have suggested that tape is dead, and that tape was the dinosaur of business continuity solutions when compared with solid state media.

But as Sony (and IBM) continues to push forward the development of tape technology, reports of its death seem to be greatly exaggerated.

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