Sony and IBM created 330TB data tapes for a massive analog archive

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This week, IBM revealed that its has shoved 201 gigabits per square inch on prototype sputtered magnetic tape. IBM developed new read/write heads, advanced servo control technologies and innovative signal-processing algorithms, which were combined with Sony's new low-friction lubricant technology for magnetic tapes.

To achieve this breakthrough, IBM said that in collaboration with Sony it had to create several new technologies that would significantly boost the tape's storage density, otherwise known as areal density. The resulting technology can support high-capacity storage of approximately 330 terabytes (TB) per data cartridge, whereas conventional technology can only handle 15 TB per data cartridge.

Having worked on new technologies for years, IBM has been able to achieve success in collaboration with Sony Storage Media Solutions, who manufactured the tape, giving a new goal to the magnetic tape drives, originally invented 60 years ago. The only catch is that it uses a storage technique that you probably thought was long dead: magnetic tape.

Meanwhile, just over 10 years ago, the same density was capable of holding 6TB, or the equivalent of 8m books whereas this latest tape could hold as many as 330m.

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Computer hard drives feature thin layers of various metals to store tiny magnetic charges. When you take that storage density and apply it to a length of 1,098 meters you're left with a cartridge capable of storing an insane 330 terabytes of data. This gives it a longer life and reduces the chance of read or write errors occurring. That's more than 20 times the areal density of current commercial tape drives. The tape drive is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.

Interestingly, IBM has also said that this achievement is also reflective of the viability of scaling up storage on tapes continuously for another decade. This development means it's also a practical solution for cold storage in the cloud.

Sony entertainment was the main user of this magnetic technology before the progression in this field, the use of this data storage was mainly used to store movies and media content that were under the ownership of Sony.