IBM, FujiFilm Demo 35TB Tape Cartridge

As the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Program announces licensing details for the next generation of 3TB LTO 5 tapes, IBM and FujiFilm are unveiling new technology that makes it possible to hold up to 35TB of uncompressed data on a single tape cartridge.

The world record breakthrough was made possible by an improvement in the precision of controlling the position of the read-write heads, according to IBM. The pinpoint control yields better than a 25-fold increase in the number of tracks that can be squeezed onto the half-inch-wide tape.

The scientists have also developed new detection methods to increase the accuracy of reading the tiny magnetic bits, an advance that increases the linear recording density by more than 50%.

The tape also uses a new, low-friction read-write head developed by IBM Research.

IBM claims the demonstration (view the IBM Research video) was performed at product-level tape speeds (2 meters per second) and achieved error rates that are correctable using standard error-correction techniques to meet IBM’s performance specification for its LTO Generation 4 products.

Tape still has the advantage over hard disk drives (HDDs) when it comes to cost. IBM claims today’s tape systems cost one-fifth to one-tenth the price of disk-based storage systems, not to mention the power savings associated with magnetic storage.

The concept of storing that much data on a single tape may stave off the “tape is dead” argument for another decade – at least that what IBM is hoping.