A partnership between Sony and IBM just yielded a world record: they have developed a new magnetic tape system that can store up to 201 gigabits of data per square inch, which amounts to 330 TB worth of uncompressed data - in a cartridge that can fit in the palm of your hand.
Sony And IBM Crams 330 TB Of Data In Something That Can Fit In Your Pocket
The areal density per square inch of Sony and IBM's magnetic tape drive surpasses that of commercial tape drives - 20 times, in fact. Tape drive technology was invented more than six decades ago and was commonly used as an archival system for tax and health care records.
Sony Storage Media Solutions developed the magnetic tape, and IBM says the new milestone indicates that tape storage can still be increased for another decade.
To achieve what they had, researchers at IBM needed to develop various new technologies. The company worked closely with Sony for several years, particularly in the field of increasing areal recording densities.
"Closing the gap (spacing) between the magnetic tape and magnetic head is critical to achieving high-density recording capabilities for tape storage media," explains Sony in a blog post. Literally reducing that gap involves higher friction at contact points between the tape surface and the magnetic head. This is tricky, though, since less friction is also crucial for high-capacity writing and high-speed reading.
In the end, Sony developed two new technologies to create the high-density tape: a better built-in lubricant layer, which keeps things running smoothly; and a new type of magnetic layer. Magnetic layers are typically in liquid form, but Sony used something called sputter deposition instead, a method that semiconductor and hard drive companies have long used to lay down thin films, as Ars Technica notes.
What Sony And IBM's High-Capacity Magnetic Tape Could Be Used For
Sony thinks this new development in storage technology shows great potential for being able to store data over long periods, space saving capabilities, low power consumption, and low cost. That being said, these tapes will no doubt be more expensive should Sony and IBM commercialize them since it involves a more complex manufacturing process.
Accessing data from this type of storage system won't be as rapid as the best SSD solutions, but they'll likely attract companies who need to store years and years' worth of data in "just in case" situations. Again, an earlier type of this technology was used for archiving documents, so it could serve that purpose again, only this time bigger and more efficient than before.