Storing Smarter Planet on Tape
Storing our future is getting some help from the past thanks to scientists at IBM Research. (YouTube Video)
While all the buzz may revolve around the smallest flash and hard disk drive (HDD) technologies it's actually tape storage that businesses and governments use to store, preserve and access large volumes of their most critical and sensitive data, including: historic archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery and compliance retention. And today this technology is getting an upgrade to keep it relevant for at least another 10 years.
29.5 billion bits = 35 million books
IBM Research is taking this 60-plus year-young technology and securing its future by announcing a breakthrough in its storage capacity. IBM scientists in cooperation with FUJIFILM have recorded data onto an advanced prototype tape at a density of 29.5 billion bits per square inch - a new record.
For the past several years, scientists from IBM Research - Zurich have dramatically improved the precision of controlling the position of the read-write heads, leading to a more than 25-fold increase in the number of tracks that can be squeezed onto the half-inch-wide tape.
In addition, they have developed new advanced detection methods to improve the accuracy of reading the tiny magnetic bits, thereby achieving an increase in the linear recording density of more than 50 percent. Another key enabling technology for achieving the required track-follow performance in this demonstration was a new, low-friction read-write head developed by IBM Research – Almaden, which has also been collaborating with FUJIFILM to develop next-generation media.
"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.
Besides reliability, on a per-gigabyte basis, tape systems currently cost about one-fifth to one-tenth of a hard disk drive storage systems and tape cartridges consume no energy unless they are being accessed – unlike disks, which in general spin continuously – providing another area of cost savings.
These new technologies are estimated to enable cartridge capacities that could hold up to 35 trillion bytes (terabytes) of uncompressed data**. This is about 44 times*** the capacity of today's IBM LTO Generation 4 cartridge. A capacity of 35 terabytes of data is sufficient to store the text of 35 million books, which would require 248 miles (399 km) of bookshelves.
The memory banks of a smarter planet
"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.
As the planet becomes more intelligent, integrated and interconnected, there will be an explosive growth in the rate at which data is created. The majority of this data, which can come from transportation traffic patterns, the food supply chain, image and video rich media or health and financial industries will be stored on tape - the memory banks of a smarter planet
**Note that this calculation assumes a roughly 12% increase in tape length due to the reduced medium thickness.
***Note that this has been rounded up from 43.75 times