IBM, Fujifilm tape promises 35TB of storage

A prototype magnetic tape with a data density of 29.5 billion bits per square inch could lead to single cartridges storing 35TB of data

IBM and Fujifilm have developed a prototype linear magnetic tape that they say sets a world record for data density and promises to lead to single cartridges that store up to 35TB of data.

The prototype, announced on Friday, has an areal data density of 29.5 billion bits per square inch, which IBM said is about 39 times that of the most popular industry-standard magnetic tape products currently in use.

IBM estimated that a tape cartridge using the technologies in the prototype could hold up to 35TB of uncompressed data, about 44 times the capacity of the company's LTO Generation 4 cartridge.

The prototype shows that commercial digital tape products have plenty of room for continued development, IBM argued.

"This tape storage density demonstration represents a step towards developing technologies to achieve tape areal recording densities of 100 billion bits per square inch and beyond. Such technologies will be necessary to keep up with the rapid increase in digital information," said IBM fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou in a statement.

The prototype builds on IBM and Fujifilm research, including a new high-density tape, more accurate servo control technologies, new signal-processing algorithms and low-friction read/write head assemblies.

The high-density tape was developed by Fujifilm in Japan in collaboration with IBM Research. It is a next-generation version of Fujifilm's Nanocubic tape and uses an ultra-fine, perpendicularly oriented barium-ferrite (BaFe) magnetic medium.

The BaFe particles are one-third smaller than current metal particles, meaning more independent particles can be placed on a given area of tape, and therefore more data can be stored. The perpendicular orientation means the particles 'stand up', rather than 'lie down', allowing more of them to be crammed into an area.

The servo control technologies developed by IBM Research's Zurich laboratory allow for more precise positioning of the read-write head, leading to a more than 25-fold increase in the number of data tracks that can be recorded onto a half-inch-wide tape. The low-friction head technologies, the result of work at IBM Research's Almaden lab, helped to improve track-follow performance.

IBM's Zurich labs also came up with new signal-processing alorithms that allowed for a linear density increase of more than 50 percent over the company's LTO Generation 4 tape.