IBM Breaks Tape Storage Record With Big Data in Mind

To help handle the onslaught of big data, IBM has set a new record for storing large amounts of data on tape.

IBM tape storage with big data

LAS VEGAS—IBM Research has set a new record for storing massive amounts of data on tape, the company announced at its IBM Edge 2014 conference here.

Dr. Mark Lantz, manager of exploratory tape at IBM Research-Zurich said IBM researchers have demonstrated a new record of 85.9 billion bits of data per square inch in areal data density on low-cost linear magnetic particulate tape—a significant update to one of the computer industry's most resilient, reliable and affordable data storage technologies for big data.

At this areal density, a standard Linear Tape Open (LTO) size cartridge could store up to 154 trillion bytes (154 terabytes) of uncompressed data—a 62-fold improvement over an LTO6 cartridge, the latest industry-standard magnetic tape product. To put this into perspective, 154 terabytes of data is sufficient to store the text from 154 million books, which would fill a bookshelf stretching from Las Vegas to Seattle, IBM said.

This new record was achieved using a new advanced prototype tape, developed by Fujifilm of Japan. This is the third time in less than 10 years that IBM scientists in collaboration with Fujifilm have achieved such an accomplishment. The news was unveiled at IBM Edge in front of more than 5,000 attendees.

"We've been actively working on this with Fujifilm for several years," Lantz told eWEEK. "We are continuing to scale tape technology." Lantz said the tape storage breakthroughs from IBM Research are finding their way into the IBM product line. "We did another demo with Fujifilm in 2009 and we have been transferring some of the findings from that into our product division, and we will continue to gradually introduce new technology into our new products."

IBM scientists break big data into four dimensions: volume, variety, velocity and veracity, and by 2020, these so-called Four V's of big data will be responsible for 40 zettabytes (40 trillion gigabytes) of data. Much of this data is archival, such as video archives, backup files, replicas for disaster recovery, and retention of information required for regulatory compliance. Because tape systems are energy-efficient and more cost-effective than hard disks, they are the ideal technology to store, protect and access archival big data.

For example, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator. By the end of the LHC's first three-year running period, more than 100 petabytes of physics data had been stored in the CERN mass-storage systems. Most of this data is archived on more than 52,000 tape cartridges of different types, providing scientists with permanent access to data, which could someday answer fundamental questions about the universe.

"Big data has met its match with tape, not only does the technology provide high capacity in a small form factor, it is also reliable for several decades, requires zero power when not in use, is secure in that cartridges cannot be erased at the push of the keystroke and available for the cloud—all at a cost of less than 2 cents per gigabyte and at a greatly reduced operating expense versus disk storage," Evangelos Eleftheriou, an IBM Fellow and researcher at IBM Research-Zurich, said in a statement.