by Adam Armstrong

IBM Sets New Capacity Record For Tape At 330TB In A Single Cartridge

IBM Research announced, with the help of Sony Storage Media Solutions, the have achieved a capacity breakthrough in tape storage. IBM was able to fit 201 Gb/in^2 (gigabits per square inch) in areal density on a prototype sputtered magnetic tape. This marks the fifth capacity record IBM has hit since 2006.

The current buzz in storage typically goes to faster media, like those that leverage the NVMe interface. StorageReview is guilty of focusing on these new emerging technologies without spending much time on tape; namely because tape is a fairly well known and not terribly exciting storage media. However, tape remains the most secure, energy efficient, and cost-effective solution for storing enormous amounts of back-up and archival data. And the deluge of unstructured data that is now being seen everywhere will need to go on something that has the capacity to store it.

This newly announced record for tape capacity would be 20 times the areal density of state of the art commercial tape drives such as the IBM TS1155 enterprise tape drive. The technology allows for 330TB of uncompressed data to be stored on a single tape cartridge. According to IBM this is the equivalent of having the texts of 330 million books in the palm of one's hand.

Technologies used to hit this new density include:

  • Innovative signal-processing algorithms for the data channel, based on noise-predictive detection principles, which enable reliable operation at a linear density of 818,000 bits per inch with an ultra-narrow 48nm wide tunneling magneto-resistive (TMR) reader.
  • A set of advanced servo control technologies that when combined enable head positioning with an accuracy of better than 7 nanometers. This combined with a 48nm wide (TMR) hard disk drive read head enables a track density of 246,200 tracks per inch, a 13-fold increase over a state of the art TS1155 drive.
  • A novel low friction tape head technology that permits the use of very smooth tape media

This new technology marks a long list of tape storage innovation for IBM stretching back 60 years. Though the capacity today is 165 million times the capacity of their first tape product. 

IBM Research

Discuss this story

Sign up for the StorageReview newsletter

Related News and Reviews