Tape Storage boost puts 220TB in your hand

IBM and Fujifilm have demonstrated a next generation tape storage system that can fit 220TB of data on a palm-sized tape, showing its viability as a long-term storage medium.

The companies say this new record demonstrates that computer tape – a storage medium invented in 1952 with an initial capacity of about 2 megabytes per reel -- continues to be an ideal technology not just for storing enormous amounts of back-up and archival data, but for new applications such as Big Data and cloud computing.

The record setting demonstration is an 88 fold improvement over an LTO6 cartridge, the latest industry-standard magnetic tape product, and a 22 fold improvement over IBM’s current enterprise class tape product.

Today more than 500 exabytes of data reside in tape storage systems, according to IT analyst firm Coughlin Associates.

The record was achieved using a new, advanced prototype tape developed by FUJIFILM Corporation of Japan, in collaboration with IBM scientists.

ETH Zurich, a leading international university based in Switzerland, is using IBM tape technology for central data back-up and restore services.

“The average data transfer rate to tape has increased steeply over the years to approximately 60 terabytes daily and our tape library has reached more than 5.5 petabytes. Despite advances in overall storage technology, tape is still a promising media for large amounts of data for its transferability of data in Linear Tape File System applications and its low energy consumption,” said Dr. Tilo Steiger, Deputy Head of ITS System Services, ETH Zurich.

The new technologies won’t come out in products for several years and may not be quite as extreme when they do, but the advances show tape can keep getting more dense into the future, said Mark Lantz, manager of IBM’s Advanced Tape Technologies Group.

While tape has traditionally been used on premise for video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery and retention of information, off-premise applications in the cloud are beginning to emerge due to its low cost, which averages just a few pennies per gigabyte.

IBM Research scientists in Zurich are exploring the integration of tape technology with current cloud object storage systems such as OpenStack Swift. This would enable object storage on tape and allow users to seamlessly migrate cold data to an extremely low-cost, highly durable cloud based storage tier perfectly suited for back-up or archival use cases. A research prototype of this technology is being demonstrated next week at the 2015 National Association Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas.

More technical details on the announcement can be found at http://www.research.ibm.com/labs/zurich/sto/tape/arealdensity.html


Dr. Mark Lantz, Manager, Exploratory Tape, IBM Research with his world record breaking tape demo.