World's 1st exabyte storage system

Exabyte? That's 1,000 Petabytes, 1,000,000 Terabytes or 1 billion Gigabytes. 1 EB is a big number, but that's not the most impressive thing about the new technology
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Exabyte? 1,000 Petabytes, 1,000,000 Terabytes or 1 billion Gigabytes. 1 EB is a big number, but that's not the most impressive thing about the new technology.

Who? Oracle/Sun/StorageTek announces a new tape drive this morning, the StorageTek T10000C. StorageTek built their business on high-capacity tape drives and robotic tape silos for mainframe and large-scale data storage environments.

What? With a 5 TB native capacity and normal 2x compression, each cartridge can store 10 TB of data. Key to the capacity is the use of a new medium, Barium-Ferrite (BaFe) tape.

BaFe has a couple of big advantages over today's metal particle tapes.

  • Fujifilm has figured out how to mass produce BaFe particles that are 1/3rd the size of current metal particles. Smaller particles = higher density and higher coercivity.
  • Unlike metal particles, BaFe doesn't rust. Today's metal particles used in tape typically have 2 layers of ceramic coating to protect against oxidation, an extra processing step BaFe - which is very stable - doesn't need.

Of course, a new tape without a new tape head to take advantage of it is useless. New media and head development go hand in hand.

While Fujifilm did the heavy lifting on the media, StorageTek built a 32 track read/write head. The most impressive number? They spec an unrecoverable read error rate of 1x10-19 - 1,000 times better than enterprise disks.

Oh, and StorageTek's largest silo has 100,000 slots. Do the math.

How long? It can take a couple of minutes to access a file on a tape silo, so their primary use is for archive data that doesn't need rapid access. So how long will archive data last on these new tapes?

Fujifilm did accelerated life testing for 30 days and claim the new tapes have a 30 year life span. YMMV.

256-bit AES encryption at wire speed is standard on the drive. With compression, the drive can write 360 MB/sec.

The Storage Bits take This is an essential move for the tape folks. History tells us that when a more convenient medium's capacity equals the incumbents, the old standby won't be standing much longer. Even if it costs more.

Hard-shell 3.5" floppies beat out 5.25" and 8" floppies. CDs and DVDs wiped out consumer tape drives and Zip drives. USB thumb drives and downloading are killing DVDs and Blu-ray.

With 3 TB drives coming to market, 5/10 TB tape cartridges keeps tape in the game. And BaFe has legs: last year Fujifilm demo'd its potential to grow to 70 TB compressed on a single LTO cartridge.

That gives the disk guys something to shoot for.

Comments welcome, of course. For a bit more history and commentary on tape's future see last year's A 70 TB tape cartridge: too much, too late?.

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