IBM’s tale of the tape sets new record for big data storage

Anyone who might have spotted a large order of champagne delivered to the Armonk area last night will now know why: IBM has just set a new record for the amount of big data stored on tape.

The Big Blue scientists have announced an eye-watering 85.9 billion bits of data per square inch on the latest tape, built from barium ferrite in conjunction with Fujitsu. This translates to 154 terabytes of uncompressed data on a standard LTO size cartridge – or, in non-tech terms, around 154 million books in one cartridge.

The tape weighs in at 4.3 micrometres thick and 1255 metres long – an improvement on the equivalent in 2010, which was a mere 5.9 micrometres and 917m.

“Even though tape technology is more than 60 years old, it’s very relevant today for one main reason: big data,” said Dr. Mark Lantz at IBM Research. “There’s a big divergence between the rate at which we’re creating data and the ability to cost-effectively store it.”

Dr Lantz added that tape beats hard disk storage due to its reliability, security, and cost.

IBM speaks of the four Vs of big data – volume, variety, velocity and veracity – and predicts that by 2020 there will be 40 zettabytes, or 40 trillion gigabytes, of data.

Even with the popularity of cloud, today’s news from IBM shows that tape, for archival purposes, is still in the conversation. As storage and I/O blogger Greg Schulz, writing for CloudTech, said last year: “I do not have to, nor should anyone have to, choose a side [between tape and disk].

“Instead look at your options – what are you trying to do, how can you leverage different things, techniques and tools to maximise your return on innovation?

“If that means that tape is being phased out of your organisation, good for you. If that means there is a new or different role for tape in your organisation co-existing with disk, then good for you.”

By comparison, the number of objects stored in the Amazon S3 cloud, as of April 2013, was a more modest two trillion.

Take a look at more pictures of the record-breaking tape below:

Reproduced with permission from IBM.

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