In a new world record, scientists at IBM have captured 330 terabytes of uncompressed data — or the equivalent of 330 million books — into a cartridge that can fit into the palm of your hand. The record of 201 gigabits per square inch on prototype sputtered magnetic tape is more than 20 times the areal density currently used in commercial tape drives. Areal recording density is the amount of information that can be stored on a given area of surface.
A cross section of the prototype sputtered magnetic tape.Image: Sony
Tape drives were invented over 60 years ago and were traditionally used for archiving tax documents and health care records. IBM’s first tape unit used reels of half-inch-wide tape that could only hold about 2 megabytes.
The magnetic tape was developed by Sony Storage Media Solutions, and the milestone indicates the viability of continuing to scale up storage on tapes for another decade, IBM said.
“Tape has traditionally been used for video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery and retention of information on premise, but the industry is also expanding to off-premise applications in the cloud,” said IBM fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou in a statement. “While sputtered tape is expected to cost a little more to manufacture than current commercial tape, the potential for very high capacity will make the cost per terabyte very attractive, making this technology practical for cold storage in the cloud.”
In order for researchers to achieve the 201 gigabits per square inch, IBM researchers had to develop several new technologies. IBM worked closely with Sony for several years, particularly on enabling increased areal recording densities. “The results of this collaboration have led to various improvements in the media technology, such as advanced roll-to-roll technology for long sputtered tape fabrication and better lubricant technology, which stabilizes the functionality of the magnetic tape.”