IBM And Sony Researchers Cram 330TB Of Uncompressed Data Onto Magnetic Tape Cartridge

IBM Tape Storage

For mass storage duties, you can forget about mechanical hard drives, let alone solid state drives wielding NAND flash memory. After all these years, magnetic tape is still the capacity king. That is even more true now that IBM Research, located in Zurich, Switzerland, and Sony have managed to cram a whopping 330 terabytes of uncompressed data onto a single magnetic cartridge.

The record breaking achievement was made possible by combining Sony's new magnetic tape technology and lubricant with mechanical parts and software from IBM, including newly developed write/read heads, advanced servo control technologies, and signal-processing algorithms. The end result is a recording density of 201 gigabits per square inch (Gb/in2), which is around a 20 times the areal density of today's magnetic tape drives.

Magnetic Tape Diagram
Source: Sony

"Tape has traditionally been used for video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery and retention of information on premise, but the industry is also expanding to off-premise applications in the cloud," IBM fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou said in a statement. "While sputtered tape is expected to cost a little more to manufacture than current commercial tape, the potential for very high capacity will make the cost per terabyte very attractive, making this technology practical for cold storage in the cloud."

Magnetic Tape Graph
Click to Enlarge (Source: IBM)

To put this into perspective, 330TB is enough storage is roughly equal to 330 million books. Of course, this won't be used solely for storing novels and such. Recent developments in the growing Internet of Things sector along with the popularization of cloud services have resulted in increased demand for high capacity data storage media.

The other strength of magnetic storage is that it has proven reliable over long periods of time. And on top of it all, magnetic tape storage boasts low power consumption and comparatively low costs to other storage medium.

Advancements like this are helping to keep magnetic tape storage relevant despite being a storage medium that's been in use for several decades. Just seven years ago, IBM and Fujifilm were bragging about a 35TB magnetic tape storage device. And in the past 11 years, tape cartridge capacity has increased from 8TB to now 330TB with this new development.