May 15, 2006 9:00 PM PDT

Magnetic tape prototype makes data leap

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September 1, 2005
A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Magnetic tape isn't dead, IBM and Fuji Photo would like you to know.

Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center and at Fuji Photo have devised a prototype storage system utilizing a dual-layer magnetic tape that can hold 6.67 billion bits of data per square inch. That's 15 times greater than most popular types of magnetic tape on the market today.

Photos: Storage leap

The achievement helps bolster the argument that tape will continue to remain an economical means of archival storage for years to come. The low costs and relatively small size of tape are tough to beat. A linear tape open (LTO) cartridge--an industrial tape storage cassette about half the size of a VHS tape-- equipped with the new tape could hold the equivalent of about 8 million books, according to IBM. Housing that many books in a library would take 57 miles of shelves.

Storing data in massive tape libraries also consumes very little energy, especially when compared with hard drives. The tape market accounted for around $4.82 billion in revenue in 2005, according to statistics from IDC.

Storage systems equipped with this new type of tape could hit the market in about five years, according to IBM.

The tape, created by Fuji, consists of a thin layer of barium ferrite crystals dispersed uniformly. Barium ferrite does not corrode or change chemically over time, making it a good choice for long-term storage. Fuji has produced storage tape with barium ferrite crystals for several years but has continued to refine the formula and deposition process. This experimentation has led to the current results.

Additionally, IBM has improved the read-write head and the methods for positioning the head to reduce the size of the data tracks by about 90 percent. Scientists from IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory developed a new coding method that improved the accuracy of reading magnetic bits.

"With tape automation revenue growth expected to be up to 8 percent through 2011, our customers are storing increasing amounts of data to manage their enterprises and to address the compliance requirements of laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996," Cindy Grossman, vice president, IBM Tape Storage Systems, said in a statement.

With the new tape, IBM broke its own record. In 2002, scientists at Big Blue came up with a tape capable of a density of 1 billion bits per square inch.

Correction: CNET incorrectly described the magnetic tape used in a prototype storage system devised by IBM and Fuji Photo researchers. The tape is dual-layer.

See more CNET content tagged:
storage system, tape, tape storage, IBM Corp., scientist


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5 years?
300GB SATA drives are now about 100$.

400GB LTO tapes are about 120$.

750GB SATA drives are now 500$.

750GB LTO tape drives ... aren't here yet.

Drives are winning.
Posted by NotParker (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think tapes will still be around for the forseable future.
Quantum offer DLT-S4 with 800GB raw capacity per tape with advertised $.065/GB (compressed 2:1) so about $100 per 800GB tape.
750GB SATA drive now about $500 ?

In 3-5 years, 750GB HD will be $100 - $150 ?
In 3-5 years, 3TB HD will be $500 ?
In 3-5 years, 2-4TB tape will be $100 - $150 ?

I think tapes will still be around for the forseable future.
Posted by tygrus (9 comments )
Link Flag
The problem is...
Right now there is no other technology that has the shelf life of magnetic tape. This is why major corporations, the library of congress, the national archives and many many other data archive businesses and others use it to back up data. Hard drives last longer than CD and DVD, but not long enough, CDs and DVDs are about as archival as a strainer is water tight.

What we need is a good, fast, feature rich, affordable tape system that can back up 1TB at a wack. The drives need to be $200 or less and then tapes $20 or less.

Until then we have no real long term and viable way to backup our data. Plain and simple.

Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Link Flag
How to reliably backup 1 Tb at home?
DVDs won't cut it, I'll need 125 of them. Tape is my only chance, but a cartridge at $100 a pop is worthless if I have to buy a $500 device to read/write.

Posted by Remo_Williams (488 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tape Is CHEAPER then you think.
You guys need to take another look at tape. I just upgraded my workstation with a VXA tape drive 172GB ($600). The 320GB version of that drive is less than $900. The 320GB tape cartridges can be had for as little as $35 each - that is less then $0.11 per gigabyte.

Yea, you may windup spending more for your backup system then the PC, but that doesn't matter. What matters is what it cost to replace the data that you lost. Some things - family photos - can't be replaced.

You are making a big mistake, depending on another hard drive - vulnerable to viruses - to back up your system. If a corrupt operating system can access that drive - it is TOAST!

I making copies of all my systems and putting the tapes in a safe deposit box. What say you now?

Cousin Chet.
Posted by Alvin English (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tape shelf life 10 years Max
what do you say to that ?
Posted by grey_eminence (153 comments )
Link Flag
Randon Seek Read Write for 300,000 years
Ferroelectric densities of 2D .2 to .5 Petabits = 200 to 500 Terabits sq. in. / 3D 40 Petabits = 40,000 to 100 Petabits = 100,000 Terabits or 2D 200,000 to 500,000 Gigabits / 3D 40,000,000 to 100,000,000 Gigabits with symmetrical read / write times of < 160 picoseconds for 100 year non-volatile storage having infinite rewrites.

This is not the end by any means as Tohoku says their target is 2D 4 Petabits a sq. in or 3D 375,000 Terabits cu. cm. using a .4 nanometer cell size.
Posted by grey_eminence (153 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tape Shelf Life 10 Years?
grey_eminence, I agree with you. 10 years is the max you can expect from the old tapes. The new metallic tapes are being hyped to last 30 years. I believe that estimate a just a little optimistic, but it is too early to tell how long they will last. I have been in the business long enough to know you ruin a tape instantly by crimping it ... ditto for dropping a hard drive.

But, assuming we archive our files on old mylar tape - 10 years beats the heck out of 5 years the industry expects CD-Roms to last ... and a hard drive can fail the first time it is turned on.
If you are serious about recovering from a disaster, you have to archive to tape.
Posted by Alvin English (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Logical Replacement for Tape
The only logical replacement I can visualize for tape must have no moving parts to fail ... we are talking about the equivalent of a one terabyte compact flash drive.

That is why I believe we will using tape for a long time.

OK. I am off my soap box.
Posted by Alvin English (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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