IBM positions tape for cloud storage

IBM positions tape for cloud storage

IBM researchers have figured out a new way to squeeze even more data onto low-cost magnetic tape, a breakthrough the company said is an 88-fold improvement over the latest industry-standard magnetic tape product and a 22-fold improvement over IBM’s current enterprise-class tape product.

This new record demonstrated an areal recording density of 123 billion bits of uncompressed data per square inch, which is the equivalent of a 220 terabyte tape cartridge that could fit in the palm of your hand, IBM Research said in its announcement.

While tape has traditionally been used on premise for video archives, backup files and data retention, off-premises applications for tape in the cloud are beginning to emerge because of the storage medium’s low cost.

IBM Research scientists are exploring the integration of tape technology with current cloud object storage systems such as OpenStack Swift. This would enable object storage on tape and allow users to seamlessly migrate cold data to an extremely low-cost, highly durable cloud-based storage tier for back-up or archival use cases, the company said.

More technical details on the announcement can be found here.

  2006 2010 2015
Areal density
6.67 billion 29.5 billion 123 billion
Cartridge capacity
8 terabytes 35 terabytes 229 terabytes
Number of books stored
8 million 35 million 220 million
Track width (micrometers)
1.5 0.45 0.140
Tape thickness (micrometers)
6.1 5.9 4.3
Tape length (meters)
890 917 1,225

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