IBM 10TB cartridge keeps tape in the game

With 10TB disk drives due in a few months, the high-end tape vendors needed to respond. With their normal 2x compression ratio, they can store 20TB. How much longer can they keep up?

The latest version of IBM's 3592 tape cartridge jumps native capacity from 4TB to 10TB while increasing the transfer rate from 250MB/sec to 360MB/sec. That beats the former leader — from Oracle/StorageTek — that offered 5TB and 240MB/sec, that debuted in 2011.

Key to the new system is a 32-track GMR head. With the normal 2x — or more — compression ratio, these tapes can store 20-25TB each. 

Tape library vendor Spectra Logic has incorporated the new drive into their systems. You can order a 3 exabyte — 3,000,000 terabytes — system from them today.

The Storage Bits take

The tape market has been retreating for decades. Twenty years ago there were many tape formats — including DLT, QIC, 8mm, 3480 and DDS — in use. Today there are three — IBM, Oracle, LTO — still manufactured. 

Disks can't match the capacity and transfer rate of the new IBM tape. And we can expect Oracle to try to leapfrog IBM to reclaim the capacity crown.

While the tape market is shrinking, it won't disappear for decades. Why? Because it is the cheapest way to archive massive amounts of data. If that's your problem, tape is your answer.

And if vendors keep raising the capacity bar, they'll keep selling drives and tapes. Not bad for a 60+ year old technology.

Comments welcome, especially if your organization is a big tape user.