IBM Sets New Record for Magnetic Tape Storage

IBM Sets New Record for Magnetic Tape Storage

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IBM Research scientists have achieved a new world record in tape storage, their fifth since 2006. The new record of 201 Gb/in2 (gigabits per square inch) in areal density was achieved on a prototype sputtered magnetic tape developed by Sony Storage Media Solutions.

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 areal recording density is more than 20 times the areal density used in current state of the art commercial tape drives, and it enables the potential to record up to about 330 terabytes of uncompressed data on a single tape cartridge that would fit in the palm of your hand.

Magnetic tape data storage is currently experiencing a renaissance. With this achievement, IBM scientists demonstrate the viability of continuing to scale the tape roadmap for another decade. To achieve 201 billion bits per square inch, IBM researchers developed several new technologies, including 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 reader. A set of advanced servo control technologies was also developed. Combined they enable head positioning with an accuracy of better than 7 nanometers. A novel low friction tape head technology permits the use of very smooth tape media.

IBM has a long history of innovation in magnetic tape data storage. Its first commercial tape product, the 726 Magnetic Tape Unit, was announced more than 60 years ago. It used reels of half-inch-wide tape that each had a capacity of about 2 megabytes. The areal density demonstration announced today represents a potential increase in capacity of 165,000,000 times compared with their first tape drive product.

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