You may think that computer tape memories died out before Rubik’s cubes came in, but IBM and Fujifilm have teamed up to develop a record-breaking new sixth-generation tape storage system that can backup a whopping 50 TB of data.
For most people, tape-based storage technology only survives in museums and old science fiction movies. In the popular imagination, they’re synonymous with a time when computers were gigantic mainframes weighing tonnes that stored their data on huge reel-to-reel tape machines the size of wardrobes with reels big as dinner platters.
They were the dominant storage medium of the 1960s and over the years they were supplanted by new and improving technologies, including disc drives, solid state memories and the like. However, they didn’t vanish, as a visit to any server farm will demonstrate as they are routinely used for backup storage as insurance against, fire, hacking, and other mishaps.
Tapes have a lot of disadvantages. They can’t be accessed at random, uploading and downloading means running the entire tape from beginning to end, they’re bulky, the drives cost a lot, and are slow to copy. On the other hand, the tapes themselves are cheap, they have a very large storage capacity, are portable, and are impossible to hack once removed from the drive.
The new tape is designed for IBM’s 3592 JF tape cartridge for the company’s TS1170 drive and is being produced by Fujifilm. Though it is rated at a record 50 TB, that’s only in non-compressed mode. Compressed, the tape can handle a staggering 150 TB.
This is achieved by using nanoparticle technology and fine hybrid magnetic particles made out of Strontium Ferrite (SrFe) magnetic particles and Barium Ferrite (BaFe) particles. These are much smaller than previous particles and are spread very evenly to provide more memory capacity per square inch and a larger recording area.
In addition, the tape itself is 15% longer thanks to a thinner and stronger base film to support the magnetic layer.
“The advanced technology in the IBM 3592 JF tape cartridge will enable customers to realize high densities, which facilitates storage cost optimization while maintaining performance and time to data,” said Alistair Symon, Vice President of Storage Systems Development at IBM. “This is the first tape storage medium with 50 TB native capacity, and it demonstrates tape’s viability as an optimal choice for data protection, active archives and long-term retention in scientific data, industrial data collection and cloud service provider environments.”
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