IBM Shatters Tape Density Mark

Big Blue finds a way to pack 6.67 billion bits per square inch.
Determined to keep tape rolling in the red-hot storage market, IBM said its engineers have hit a new record in data density on linear magnetic tape.

Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., packed data onto a test tape at a density of 6.67 billion bits, or more than 6 terabytes, per square inch.

This compression, achieved with the help of new magnetic tape from Fuji Photo Film Co., is more than 15 times the data density of magnetic tape products from IBM, Sun Microsystems and other tape system makers.

Bruce Master, senior program manager of worldwide tape storage systems at IBM, said that should products using IBM's new data recording technology and Fuji's tape hit the market in five years as expected, a standard Linear Tape Open (LTO) tape cartridge could hold 8 trillion bytes (define)  of uncompressed data.

For some perspective, this is 20 times the capacity of today's LTO Generation 3 cartridge, which is about half the size of a VHS videocassette, and is equivalent to the data in eight million books.

The new mark shatters the compression rate IBM established in 2002 by recording a terabyte of data onto one LTO cartridge at 1 billion bits per square inch.

Corporations employ tape to sock away large volumes of data that are used infrequently or don't need speedy access times. Tape is frequently used in data archives, backup files, data replication, and is considered one of the tools to help enterprises meet federal compliance rules.

Tape has been replaced in some cases in favor of faster disk-based methods of storing data.

Some disk users have also argued that tape breaks and is less reliable than disk storage. Recent lost tape cartridges haven't endeared users to the classic medium either.

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