With more than 60 years of tape innovation, IBM has a new world record after capturing 201 gigabytes per square inch of data on a sputtered magnetic tape prototype. According to the company’s most recent press release, this is more than 20 times the areal density currently used in commercial tape drives.

IBM’s New World Record

IBM’s palm sized cartridge has a capacity of 330 terabytes of uncompressed data, which is the equivalent of 330 million books. Per its definition, the Areal recording density is “the amount of information that can be stored on any given area of a surface.” With the previous tape areal density reaching 123 billion bits per square inch in 2015, IBM’s 201 billion milestone is certainly impressive.

“Tape storage is currently the most secure, energy efficient and cost-effective solution for storing enormous amounts of back-up and archival data, as well as for new applications such as Big Data and cloud computing.”

60 Years of Tape Innovation

IBMIBM did not do this alone. Collaborating with Sony Storage Media Solutions, IBM was able to develop a sputtered media tape measuring 1,098 meters at a thickness of 4.7 micrometers. With a capacity never achieved before, the “milestone indicates the viability of continuing to scale up storage on tapes for another decade,” IBM said.

Invented over 60 years ago, tape was traditionally used to archive tax documents and medical records. Capable of holding 2 megabytes of data on reels measuring a half-an-inch wide, IBM’s first tape doesn’t even compare to the storage capacity of today’s sputtered media tape. The areal density of IBM’s new development “represents a potential increase in capacity of 165,000,000 times compared with IBM’s first tape drive product.”

“Tape has traditionally been used for video archives, backup files, replicas for disaster recovery and retention of information on premise, but the industry is also expanding to an off-premise application in the cloud,” IBM fell Evangelos Eleftheriou said in a recent statement. “While the 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.”


New Technologies Developed

Achieving the world’s highest areal recording density for magnetic tape is no small task. IBM had to develop a series of new technologies to reach the 201 gigabytes per square inch milestone. “The results of this collaboration (with Sony) have led to various improvements in the media technology, such as advanced roll-to-roll technology for long sputtered tape fabrication and better lubricant technology, which stabilizes the functionality of the magnetic tape.”

In the quest to reach 201 gigabytes of data, IBM and Sony Storage Media Solutions developed the following technologies:

– Innovative signal-processing algorithms for the data channel, based on noise-predictive detection principles, which enable reliable operation at a linear density of 818,000 bits per inch with an ultra-narrow 48nm wide tunneling magneto-resistive (TMR) reader.

– A set of advanced servo control technologies that when combined enable head positioning with an accuracy of better than 7 nanometers. This combined with a 48nm wide (TMR) hard disk drive read head enables a track density of 246,200 tracks per inch, a 13-fold increase over a state of the art TS1155 drive.

– A novel low friction tape head technology that permits the use of very smooth tape media

IBM areal recording density

Source: IBM, The Verge