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article imageIBM and Sony store 330TB of uncompressed data on a single tape

By James Walker     Aug 2, 2017 in Technology
IBM and Sony have announced a new world record for data storage, successfully cramming 330TB of uncompressed files onto a single tape drive. The breakthrough makes tape a viable solution for the cold storage of cloud archives.
The tape drive developed by researchers at IBM and Sony has a density of 201 gigabits per square inch. The density gives the drive a theoretical capacity of 330 terabytes when stored in a small palm-sized cartridge format. This is over 2,000% more storage than a regular 15TB tape drive.
As Ars Technica reports, IBM and Sony worked in tandem to create the cartridge. IBM was responsible for designing the tape heads and processing gear that store data on the magnetic strips of tape. Sony engineered the high-density tape itself, using new technology to store more data within the same area.
The tape has a magnetic layer and a lubricant layer. The magnetic area is where the data is stored and it's this that Sony focused on. Regular tape uses a liquid magnetic layer which is easy to produce, making cartridges cheap and readily available. Sony's new technology relies on a sputter deposition technique instead, more commonly used to create thin films of magnetism in hard drives.
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Sputter deposition results in a strip of tape with magnetised areas less than ten nanometres wide. This allows many more magnetic zones to fit onto a single section of tape. A standard tape cartridge may have magnetic grains that are tens or even hundreds of nanometres wide.
Sony has also improved the tape's lubricant layer so it runs more smoothly through the machine and faces less resistance. This gives it a longer life and reduces the chance of read or write errors occurring. Because the magnetised areas are so much smaller than normal, the tape has to be relied upon to run smoothly through the drive. Any snag against the mechanism could cause a delay resulting in the header missing a magnetised zone, corrupting the data.
The result of all the research is a magnetic tape drive that scales beyond any previous storage medium. The largest commercial hard drives are now around 60TB, far below the 330TB of IBM and Sony's tape.
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Tape has previously been used as a long-term backup solution for disaster recovery of server farms. This development means it's also a practical solution for cold storage in the cloud. As the amount of data created by smart devices increases, service providers need to source storage mediums with a capacity to archive their entire platform. IBM and Sony said this drive has "great potential" for use in cloud environments.
"The importance of data storage is being reaffirmed in terms of ensuring reliable recovery of data in information systems such as databases and servers, as well as safe management of information," Sony said in a press release. "It is against this background that magnetic tape shows great potential as a storage media thanks to its various strengths, including its capacity for storing data over long periods of time, low power consumption, low cost, and space saving capabilities."
More about Ibm, Sony, Data storage, Cloud, Tape
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