Researchers with IBM and Sony have achieved a record data storage density on magnetic tape, packing a small cartridge with 330 terabytes of data, more than 28 times as much information as today’s leading commercial technologies can hold.
Their findings, published last month, are good news for cloud services providers that find themselves having to back up and store ever-expanding volumes of information from big data applications ranging to scientific research to security and surveillance videos.
The prototype system developed by IBM and Sony can support data storage densities of 201.4 GB per square inch, compared to state-of-the-art tape drives that hold between 5 GB and 7 GB per square inch. IBM said this is the company’s fifth data storage record-breaker since 2006.
Opens Door for a Decade of Further Improvement
“Foremost, this really demonstrates the potential to continue scaling tape technology basically at historical rates of doubling the cartridge capacity every two years for at least the next 10 years,” said IBM exploratory tape scientist Mark Lantz (pictured above) in a YouTube video published today by IBM Research. “It allows customers to preserve their data in a cost-effective manner.”
The prototype developed by IBM and Sony uses sputtered magnetic tape to store data. Sputtering involves coating the storage medium with several nanometer-thin layers of different conducting materials, including a five-nanometer overcoat of diamond-like carbon.
“Magnetic tape systems are currently the most cost-effective solution for the storage of large volumes of infrequently accessed data,” the researchers wrote in a paper published July 19 in IEEE Transactions on Magnetics. “However, for tape systems to remain competitive, it is essential to maintain this cost advantage by continuing to scale areal density.” They added their successful prototype demonstrates “the viability of continuing to scale the tape roadmap for another decade.”
‘Potential Is Huge’
IBM’s previous magnetic tape data storage record, set in 2014, achieved a density of 85.9 billion bits of data per square inch. By contrast, this latest advance pushes that past 201 billion bits of data per square inch.
“Cloud is really one of the growing use cases of tape technology both as a kind of backup application to preserve data that’s stored on other technologies in the cloud but also as an archival tier for cold data which is not very frequently accessed,” Lantz said in today’s YouTube video. “The potential is huge to continue scaling tape for many more years beyond what we’ve been able to show today.”
While magnetic tape remains a go-to storage medium for data centers and other big data applications, researchers are also exploring a number of other potential technologies to keep up with a volume of digital information that is doubling every two years.
In March, for example, a U.S. research team demonstrated a technology that could store data on DNA at a density of 215 petabytes per gram — in theory, enough to store all of the information humans have ever generated in the space of a single room.