IBM Research and Fujifilm set new record in magnetic tape data density
Important milestone in storing, protecting and accessing increasing volumes of data for a smarter planet
IBM and Fujifilm have demonstrated a world record in areal data density on linear magnetic tape — a significant update to one of the computer industry's most resilient, reliable and affordable data storage technologies.
This breakthrough proves that tape technology can increase capacity for years to come, which has important implications, as tape storage systems are more energy efficient and cost-effective than hard disk drive storage systems. Businesses and governments use magnetic tape to store, protect and access large volumes of important data, including: data and video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery, and retention of information required for regulatory compliance.
The scientists at IBM Research – Zurich, in cooperation with the FUJIFILM, recorded data onto an advanced prototype tape, at a density of 29.5 billion bits per square inch — about 39 times the areal data density of today's most popular industry-standard magnetic tape product*. To achieve this feat, IBM Research has developed several new critical technologies, and for the past three years worked closely with FUJIFILM to optimize its next-generation dual-coat magnetic tape based on barium ferrite (BaFe) particles.
These new technologies are estimated to enable cartridge capacities that could hold up to 35 trillion bytes (terabytes) of uncompressed data**. This is about 44 times*** the capacity of today's IBM LTO Generation 4 cartridge. A capacity of 35 terabytes of data is sufficient to store the text of 35 million books, which would require 248 miles (399 km) of bookshelves.
For the past several years, scientists from IBM Research – Zurich have dramatically improved the precision of controlling the position of the read-write heads, leading to a more than 25-fold increase in the number of tracks that can be squeezed onto the half-inch-wide tape. In addition, they have developed new advanced detection methods to improve the accuracy of reading the tiny magnetic bits, thereby achieving an increase in the linear recording density of more than 50 percent. Another key enabling technology for achieving the required track-follow performance in this demonstration was a new, low-friction read-write head developed by IBM Research – Almaden, which has also been collaborating with FUJIFILM to develop next-generation media.
Technical details: IBM's world-record achievement leverages notable improvements in four areas of the magnetic tape system
* The demonstration was performed at product-level tape speeds (2 meters per second) and achieved error rates that are correctable using standard error-correction techniques to meet IBM's performance specification for its LTO Generation 4 products.
** Note that this calculation assumes a roughly 12% increase in tape length due to the reduced medium thickness.
*** Note that this has been rounded up from 43.75 times.