How To Fit 200 Million Books Into The Palm Of Your Hand

Big DataData StorageStorage

IBM brandishes 220 terabyte tape cartridge in partnership with Fujifilm, big enough to hold 1.37 trillion mobile text messages

IBM scientists have touted the ability to reach a recording density of 123 billion bits of uncompressed data per square inch on magnetic tape – which would give you the equivalent of of a 220 terabyte tape cartridge that could fit in the palm of your hand.

IBM reckons that 220 terabytes of data is comparable to 1.37 trillion mobile text messages or the text of 220 million books, which would require a 2,200 km bookshelf spanning from Las Vegas to Houston, Texas.

This breakthrough goes to show that the magnetic tape storage is not just useful for storing colossal lumps of archival data , but for new applications such as Big Data and cloud computing.

“88 fold improvement”

IBM said its new breakthrough demonstration is an 88 fold improvement over an LTO6 cartridge, the latest industry-standard magnetic tape product, and a 22 fold improvement over IBM’s current enterprise class tape product.

The record was achieved using prototype tape developed by Japan’s Fujifilm.

A Swiss university which uses IBM tape technology for data back-up said that the breakthrough plays an important role in showing magnetic tape’s relevance in storage for years to come.

“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. 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,” said Dr. Tilo Steiger, deputy head of ITS System Services, ETH Zurich.

IBM’s tape in numbers


IBM’s tape material is made out of barium ferrite just 4.3 micrometres thick. The spool itself is just over a kilometre long, at 1255 metres.

IBM Research scientists in Zurich are exploring the integration of tape technology with current cloud object storage systems such as OpenStack Swift. This would enable object storage on tape and allow users to migrate cold data to a cloud based storage tier that IBM said is suited for back-up or archival use cases.

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