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IBM, FujiFilm max out tape storage at 85.9Gbit/in2

Posted: 21 May 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IBM  magnetic tape  FujiFilm  storage 

IBM has racked up a 62-fold increase in the volume of data a standard Linear Tape-Open (LTO) cartridge can store. The old school magnetic tape is believed to be the only memory medium keeping pace with Moore's Law.

This milestone was achieved using a prototype tape, developed by FUJIFILM Corporation of Japan. IBM's demonstration showed that the FujiFilm double-coated tape could store 85.9Gbit per square inch—a world record in areal density for low-cost linear magnetic particulate tape. At this areal density, a standard LTO size cartridge could store up to 154TB of uncompressed data versus the meagre 2.5TB in the 2012-vintage LTO.

The increase in storage allowed an IBM customer to downsize its video archive from 1,507ft2 to just 388ft2.

IBM introduced the tape technology six decades ago. Back then, the industry standard had been a 10.5inch round tape reel that stored 160MB of data with an uncompressed data rate of 1.25MB/s. It became a 5.5inch square cartridge soon after, with up to 200MB of data stored and at the rate of 3MB/s. The tape subsystem using these square cartriges required less than half the floor space of an equivalent installation of that which used reels.

IBM tape history

Figure 1:The cartridge and standard tape reel compared (left), along with the corresponding subsystems that used them (right). Source: IBM

It is also important to note that this demonstration does not represent any kind of physical limitation on the scaling of tape, but rather is a snapshot of the state of the art of the technology today. We are currently working on continuing to push the limits of tape technology to higher areal density and believe that particulate media will scale to 100+ gigabits per square inch. Beyond this, sputtered media will likely allow the continued scaling of areal density.

"Today, most storage technologies like HDD [hard-disc drive], flash, and DRAM [dynamic random access memory] are facing or will very soon face very difficult challenges to continue scaling. In contrast, our demonstration shows that tape can continue scaling at the current rate of doubling cartridge capacity every two years for at least the next 10 years," Mark Lantz, a research scientist and manager of exploratory tape at IBM Research, told EETimes.

IBM FujiFilm LTO 1

Figure 2: IBM's record-holding tape drive uses a giant magnetoresistance (GNR) read head with a gap of just 90nm. Source: IBM

It is also important to note that this demonstration does not represent any kind of physical limitation on the scaling of tape, but rather is a snapshot of the state of the art of the technology today. We are currently working on continuing to push the limits of tape technology to higher areal density and believe that particulate media will scale to 100+ gigabits per square inch. Beyond this, sputtered media will likely allow the continued scaling of areal density.


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