Science and Innovation of Magnetic Tape Storage

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science and innovation of magentic tape storage

Researchers break world record for magnetic tape storage capacity, making tape a head-turning competitor of cloud storage.

For years, many data storage industry professionals have been writing magnetic tape off as if it were an archaic thing of the past. Well the jokes on them.

IBM, working with Sony Storage Media Solutions, has taken magnetic tape storage to new heights and broken a world record in the process.

Research scientists have achieved a new world record in tape storage of 201 gigabits per square inch in areal density on a prototype sputtered magnetic tape.

In fact, this was the fifth world record achieved by magnetic tape since 2006!

Compared to other storage mediums, tape storage is currently the most secure, energy efficient and cost-effective solution for storing enormous amounts of back-up and archival data, as well as for new applications such as Big Data and cloud computing.

This new record for areal recording density is more than 20 times the areal density used in current state of the art commercial tape drives and allows the potential to store up to 330 TB of uncompressed data on a single tape cartridge.

To put it all into perspective, 330 terabytes of data are equivalent to 330 million paper back textbooks.

The physical books, if placed on a shelf would stretch further than the length from northeastern to the southwestern most tips of Japan!

Credit: IBM

Believe it or not, magnetic tape data storage is in the process of experiencing a resurgence. With this remarkable and groundbreaking achievement, Scientists have confirmed the possibility of continuing to surmount the tape roadmap for decades to come.

Tape has customarily been used for video archives, back-up files, data replicas for disaster recovery and retention of information on premise. However, the industry is also expanding to off-site applications in the cloud.

Sputtered tape is expected to cost a little more to manufacture than current commercial tape that uses the element Barium Ferrite (BaFe), the likelihood for very high capacity will make the cost per TB alluring, turning tape technology into cold storage in the cloud.

Courtesy: Sony and IBM Research

According to IBM researchers, in order to achieve 201 billion bits per square inch, several new technologies had to be developed:

·         Innovative signal-processing algorithms for the data channel, based on noise-predictive detection principles, which enable reliable operation at a linear density of 818,000 bits per inch with an ultra-narrow 48nm wide tunneling magneto-resistive (TMR) reader.

·         A set of advanced servo control technologies that when combined enable head positioning with an accuracy of better than 7 nanometers. This combined with a 48nm wide (TMR) hard disk drive read head enables a track density of 246,200 tracks per inch, a 13-fold increase over a state of the art TS1155 drive.

·         A novel low friction tape head technology that permits the use of very smooth tape media.

IBM has been collaborating with Sony Storage Media Solutions for quite a few years on increasing areal recording densities. The results of their work have led to various improvements in storage media technology, such as advanced roll-to-roll technology for long sputtered tape fabrication and better lubricant technology, which steadies the functionality of the magnetic tape.

Many of the technologies developed and used in the current areal density demonstrations are later implemented into upcoming tape products. IBM has a long history of revolutionizing the magnetic tape and data storage industry. More than 60 years ago their first commercial tape product, the 726 Magnetic Tape Unit, used reels of half-inch-wide tape each with a capacity of 2 megabytes. The current areal density demonstration signifies a potential increase in capacity of 165,000,000 times compared with their first product. How times have changed!


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