Sony is out to prove that no matter how big data gets, magnetic tape still has a place in an enterprise’s storage strategy.
The Japanese electronics giant, which is in the midst of shedding its VAIO PC business, has announced a new technology that packs 148 gigabits (Gb) per square inch, resulting in the world’s highest areal recording density. Packing roughly 74 times the capacity of today’s archival storage tapes, the company envisions data cartridges that can store over 185 TB of data.
If and when Sony’s new tape hits the storage market — the company plans to commercialize and continue to advance the tech — it will represent a big step up in archival and long-term data storage capabilities. Today’s LTO-6 data cartridges have a native, uncompressed storage capacity of 2.5 TB and an areal recording density of about 2 Gb per square inch.
“Until now, recording density of this type of media was increased by enhancing the miniaturization technologies that enable the size of magnetic particles on which data is stored to be decreased,” asserted Sony. Indicating that shrinking those particles further had become a “significant challenge,” the company set out to find innovative ways of stuffing more data into tape.
Sony accomplished the record-breaking achievement using a technique called sputter deposition. The company explained in a statement that sputter deposition is “a type of vacuum thin film forming technology, to generate multiple layers of crystals with a uniform orientation on a polymer film with thickness of less than 5 micrometers.”
The thin film deposition process involves using an electrostatic discharge to collide argon ions with a target, explained Sony. The resultant materials form a thin layer that sits on a substrate.
A breakthrough in making conditions ideal for uniform crystals using a “soft magnetic underlayer with a smooth interface” helped the company create a “nano-grained magnetic layer” with particles of 7.7nm in size on average. Not only are the particles smaller, the process generates a magnetic layer with crystals that are all pointed in the same direction, allowing Sony to pack them in tighter.
IBM, no stranger to magnetic tape storage as the first to ship LTO in 2000, assisted Sony in assessing the new tape. The companies are currently showcasing the tech during INTERMAG Europe 2014, an international magnetics conference, in Dresden, Germany.