IBM and Fujifilm break record with 50TB – The Tape Lives On
September 5, 2023

IBM and Fujifilm break record with 50TB – The Tape Lives On

To the average user, tape storage will seem like a relic from a bygone era, last seen back in the days when Commodore and Spectrum dominated the home computer market. However, this type of backup is still not only in use, but is still being developed and improved. The latest breakthrough in this domain is the responsibility of the companies IBM and Fujifilm, which joined forces in the development of the sixth generation tape storage system, which is able to store a record 50 TB of data.

Although tapes will seem like something that belongs in museums or on closet-sized devices to many, they are actually still a very important way to store large amounts of data, with certain advantages over hard drives or SSDs. This technology, which was dominant in this domain in the sixties of the last century, is still very much in use, especially in large systems and server farms as a backup in case of fire, hacker attacks and other problems.

Of course, tapes have their drawbacks compared to current technologies – they cannot be accessed for random queries, writing and reading generally involve turning the tape from beginning to end, they are bulky, readers cost a lot, and speed is not their strong point either. On the other hand, the tapes themselves are relatively cheap, have extremely large capacities, are easily portable and impossible to “hack” when they are not in the reader.

The new type of tape is designed in the form of the IBM 3592 JF cartridge for the IBM TS1170 reader, manufactured by Fujifilm. Although it is declared to have a record capacity of 50 TB, this refers to the uncompressed mode, while in the compressed mode it is possible to place an incredible 150 TB on it.

This was achieved using nanoparticle technology and fine hybrid magnetic particles made of stontium ferrite (SrFe) and barium ferrite (BaFe). These particles are significantly smaller than those previously used and are distributed uniformly to provide greater capacity per unit area of ​​the tape, as well as a larger space for recording. In addition, the tape is 15% longer thanks to the thinner and stronger base film on which the magnetic layer is located.

“The advanced technology in the IBM 3592 JF cartridge will enable customers to achieve higher data density, which helps optimize costs while maintaining performance levels and data access times,” said Alistair Simon, IBM's vice president of storage systems development. “This is the first medium in the form of tape with a natural capacity of 50 TB and demonstrates the usability of tape as an optimal solution for data protection, active archiving, long-term storage in industrial and cloud environments”.