IBM claims new areal density record with 220TB tape tech

Big Blue working to add cold storage to OpenStack Swift

VIDEO IBM and FUJIFILM have demonstrated new technologies they say crams 123 billion bits into every square inch of tape, to deliver a 220 terabyte (probably LTO) tape cartridge.

The two companies say they've pulled off this trick with something called NANOCUBIC technology that “decreases barium ferrite (BaFe) magnetic particle volume, which is essential for high-density data recording, while maintaining its thermal stability to ensure long-term archivability of recorded data.” “Enhanced write field head technology” makes it possible to deal with the smaller BaFe particles.

Other boffinry helping things along includes “A set of advanced servo control technologies that include a high bandwidth head actuator, a servo pattern and servo channel and a set of tape speed optimized H-infinity track follow controllers that together enable head positioning with an accuracy better than 6 nanometers.” All that science means “... track density of 181,300 tracks per inch, a more than 39 fold increase over LTO6.”

The pair say they've also cooked up “Innovative signal-processing algorithms for the data channel, based on noise-predictive detection principles, [to] enable reliable operation with an ultra narrow 90 nanometer wide giant magnetoresistive (GMR) reader.”

Enough of the storage science talk: the bit (pardon the pun) that really matters is that Big Blue says “IBM Research scientists in Zurich are exploring the integration of tape technology with current cloud object storage systems such as OpenStack Swift. This would enable object storage on tape and allow users to seamlessly migrate cold data to an extremely low-cost, highly durable cloud based storage tier perfectly suited for back-up or archival use cases.”

Stick that up your cloud, “tape is dead” whiners.

As ever, there's no word on when this stuff might actually go on sale. But IBM's worked with FUJIFILM for a decade or more on tape tech, plenty of which has ended up in the LTO standard. The LTO roadmap already goes out to generation 10, which is expected to deliver 48TB of raw capacity some time in the early 2020s. Each LTO iteration doubles its predecessor's native capacity, so if that plan holds and this this technology delivers the promised 220TB cartridge that could make it the basis of LTO 12, which would mean it lands some time around 2030.

The Reg can't promise to be there at the time. But your correspondent, and storage colleague Chris Mellor, now have another 15 years of follow-ups to pursue. ®

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