IBM Breaks Tape Storage Record With Big Data in Mind

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-05-20 Print this article Print
IBM tape storage with big data

To achieve 85.9 billion bits per square inch, IBM researchers have developed several new critical technologies, including a new enhanced write field head technology that enables the use of much finer barium ferrite (BaFe) particles, advanced servo-control technologies that achieve head positioning with nano-scale fidelity and enable a 27-fold increase in track density, compared to the LTO6 format, and innovative signal-processing algorithms for the data channel that enable reliable operation with a ultra-narrow 90nm wide giant magnetoresistive (GMR) reader.

Since 2002, IBM has been working closely with Fujifilm, particularly on the optimization of its dual-coat magnetic tape based on BaFe particles. In this time, IBM scientists in Zurich have dramatically improved the precision of controlling the position of the read-write heads, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of tracks that can be squeezed onto the half-inch-wide tape. In addition, they have developed new advanced detection methods to improve the accuracy of reading the tiny magnetic bits, thereby achieving an increase in the linear recording density of more than 56 percent while enabling the use of a reader that is only 90nm in width.

Lantz said IBM scientists envision scaling magnetic tape to even higher areal densities in the future and will continue to explore novel media technologies. Earlier this month, at the 2014 Intermag conference, IBM scientists from the company's Almaden Research Lab showed that there is potential to continue scaling tape areal densities beyond 85.9 billion bits per square inch. The scientists studied the magnetic properties of a small sample of sputtered media using two specialized test apparatuses.

IBM officials said this is an important breakthrough under highly controlled laboratory conditions that may point the way to continue scaling magnetic recording by means of sputtered media once the potential of low-cost particulate media has been exhausted, but much more research will be required, IBM said.

IBM has a long history of innovation in magnetic-tape data storage. Its first commercial tape product, the 726 Magnetic Tape Unit, was announced more than 60 years ago. It used reels of half-inch-wide tape that each had a capacity of about 2 megabytes. The areal density demonstration announced today represents a potential increase in capacity of 77,000,000 times, compared with IBM's first tape drive product. This announcement reaffirms IBM's continued commitment and leadership in magnetic tape technology, Lantz said.



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