The 50s called and they want their tapes back. Forget crystals, holograms, or even DNA. The storage solution of the future might come from the pass. And that’s not an exaggeration either. Sony and IBM have joined several of their technologies and innovations together in order to make a palm-sized magnetic tape cartridge capable of holding as much as 330 TB of data. An achievement considering that a comparable cartridge only holds 15 TB at most.
Data storage trends have come and gone. Floppy disks are nothing but icons to kids today. CDs and DVDs are collectors’ items. We’re mostly all about NAND Flash memory these days, like those in SSDs. The magnetic tape, however, might be on the verge of a revival. That is, if IBM has its way.
There’s still much to be said for these reels. Unlike optical discs and even some flash memory, this physical medium lasts almost a lifetime, and so can their data. That makes magnetic tapes, especially an extremely high-capacity one, a near perfect solution for holding large amounts of data, especially cold data, or data that isn’t accessed often. In other words, backups.
But like any physical medium, tapes use physical readers and moving parts. Therefore, it involves friction. Friction that is both necessary to actually read off the tape but also dangerous when in excess. This is where Sony steps in with its new lubricant.
But more than just extending the longevity of tapes by reducing friction, Sony’s technology actually allows tape cartridges to hold more data. How? By extending the tape length, which, in turn, is made possible by having uniform crystalline grain sizes on the magnetic layer of the tape. Conventional methods of creating tapes introduces unevenness and non-uniformity because of the presence of impurity gas.
The result is a cartridge that can hold 1,000 meters of tape, has a data density of 201 Gb per square inch, and can theoretically hold 330 TB of data. That’s more than 20 times what current magnetic tape cartridges of the same size can hold. IBM envisions this tape to help address the needs of big data storage and cloud computing today and of the future. Provided the two companies do turn it into a commercial product.