Eyeing the Cloud, IBM and Fujifilm Pack 220 TB onto Tape

Posted on April 10, 2015 By Pedro Hernandez


Tape storage's outlook is looking increasingly cloudier, according to IBM and Fujifilm.

While cloud workloads generally favor traditional disk drives and blazingly fast solid-state drives (SSDs), the companies are making a case for cloud-enabled tape systems. First, they're tackling the industry's endless appetite for more storage capacity.

IBM and Fujifilm this week unveiled a new prototype tape cartridge that can soak up 123 billion bits of data per square inch by fusing Fujifilm's NANOCUBIC technology and IBM's research in advanced tape drives. That translates into 220 terabytes (TB) of data, 88 times the capacity of a 2.5 TB LTO6 tape (uncompressed) or a "22 fold improvement over IBM's current enterprise class tape product," the 3592, according to Big Blue.

"With this demonstration, we prove again that tape will continue to play an important role in the storage hierarchy for years to come," said IBM Fellow Dr. Evangelos Eleftheriou in a statement.

Fujifilm developed a new chemical compound that produces a more uniform magnetic layer, improving performance. IBM contributed signal processing algorithms, precise servo controls and write head technologies that interact better with smaller barium ferrite particles that form the basis of the tape's magnetic layer.

Next, efforts are underway to give tape a cloud-friendly makeover.

In a statement, IBM said its researchers "in Zurich are exploring the integration of tape technology with current cloud object storage systems such as OpenStack Swift," the storage component of the popular open-source cloud software platform. In addition to enabling tape-based object storage, the technology would "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 prototype will be shown off at next week's National Association Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Los Vegas, where content producers gather to see the latest innovations in creating, managing and storing large digital video files. IBM will offer a deeper dive into the technology at 2015 Intermag in Beijing and IBM EDGE in Las Vegas, both occurring in May.

"With high performance computing and cloud storage services on the rise, this data density achievement is significant," said Peter Faulhaber, president, FUJIFILM Recording Media USA, Inc. According to his company's estimates, a single 220 TB tape could hold the entire human genome of 220 people.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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