IBM makes tape density breakthrough

IBM researchers extend magnetic tape storage to 15 times the current density

IBM researchers have made a breakthrough in magnetic tape data density they say will help secure the media's destiny.

Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, stored data onto a tape at a density of 6.67 billion bits per square inch, which is more than 15 times the density of current magnetic tape products. IBM predicts that an LTO (Linear Tape Open) cartridge of the future could hold 8TB of uncompressed data, about 20 times the capacity of existing cartridges.

The researchers worked with Fuji Photo Film Co. engineers to develop a new dual-coat magnetic tape media for high-density recording they say is cheaper than other methods. Researchers also tweaked the read-write head for handling the tape to enable smaller data tracks. Meanwhile, researchers from IBM labs in Zurich, Switzerland, developed a new way of coding to more accurately read tiny magnetic bits.

Debates have been ongoing in recent years over whether tape will die out to other storage mediums, as data continues to explode in the enterprise. IBM hopes that the improvements in tape density and cartridge capacity will help cement tape's future as an economical storage option.

"I do think this will provide additional credibility for tape, it makes a statement that tape will continue long into the future and grow dramatically in capacity," said Fara Yale, research vice president, for Gartner, in Stamford, Connecticut.

IBM expects the first commercial storage products based on the new technologies to emerge by 2011.

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