Page Two

By eweek  |  Posted 2003-04-21 Print this article Print

John Teale, a Distinguished Engineer at IBM and director of the Tape Technology Laboratory, in Tucson, Ariz., agreed. "Customers might appreciate doubling the capacity of their tape, but they dont want to do it at the cost of doubling the price. Its doable, but, in reality, it comes at a cost and at a technical risk," Teale said.

Even if tapes are made thinner, double-sided or both, reading and writing data on tape is another challenge entirely. Teales team is working on a drive read/write head that adjusts its sensitivity every time a tape is inserted, a process known as adaptive equalization. "Were talking two to three years for this type of capability in an actual product. This will have a negligible cost impact," he said.

Tapes of the future will also be cleaner, resulting in less data corruption. High capacities mean read/write heads touch the media more frequently, which causes chemical and metal coatings to wear out more quickly and debris to build up. For a robotic library with dozens of slots, that debris can combine with ordinary dust and get into mechanical parts, causing performance degradation or failure.

"The ability to manage data on tape is a major issue. The problem gets worse every year because the tape gets thinner," said Jim Wolf, chief architect at Storage Technology Corp.s tape development group.

Cartridges using the high-end advanced intelligent tape format address debris today with sensor-based self-cleaning. "The monitoring function looks at the performance of the drive and determines whether the drive needs cleaning," based on error rates, Wolf said. As capacities increase, "Were talking about separations of 20 nm. Im not sure what kind of sensor youd get to manage that," said Wolf, in Louisville, Colo.

Helping keep media aligned could help. "One of the other things were working on [is] different guiding systems. As the tape gets thinner, were going to have to provide softer guiding," Wolf said.

The tape of the future will also be more secure. Many formats today have built-in microchips for holding metadata, but encryption software could be put in, too, said Hiro Kajiro, director of engineering, tape storage solutions at Sony Electronics Inc., in San Jose, Calif.

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