IBM magnetic tape storage system breaks world record


Just when you might have thought those spinning tapes you last saw in pictures of mainframe computers, IBM looks to have revived the format for the purposes of storage.

IBM is of course famous for many things including its mainframe computers with their spinning spools of tape.

One perhaps under-appreciated aspect of IBM is the number of patents it files for its inventions and innovations.

Its latest development is a technology which has enabled IBM to achieve what it says is a “new world record in tape storage”.

The new record of 201 gigabits per square inch was achieved on a prototype magnetic tape developed by Sony.

IBM says tape storage is currently the most secure, energy-efficient and cost-effective data storage solution.

It’s most often used for such things as archive data, but it’s also used for many big data and cloud computing applications.

ibm mainframes tapes
IBM archive photo of magnetic tapes used for mainframe computers

IBM’s breakthrough will enable the company to offer tape drives with capacities of around 330 terabytes – which is significantly more than any other similar drives on the market.

And while the very word “tapes” may sound anachronistic, IBM says tape data storage is currently experiencing something of a renaissance.

IBM Fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou says: “Tape has traditionally been used for video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery and retention of information on premise, but the industry is also expanding to off-premise applications in the cloud.

“While sputtered tape is expected to cost a little more to manufacture than current commercial tape that uses Barium ferrite, the potential for very high capacity will make the cost per terabyte very attractive, making this technology practical for cold storage in the cloud.”

The key to how IBM scientists achieved their breakthrough was the use of “innovative signal-processing algorithms”.

Also, new nanotechnology developed by Sony enabled more precision in storing and retrieving the data on the tape.