Sony has disclosed details about a future magnetic tape product that
will be able to hold 185TB of data, or the equivalent of nearly 3,800
dual-layer Blu-ray discs, in a package the size of current-day
cassettes. The tape material can store 148Gb per square inch, which is
the world's highest areal recording density, according to the company.
new tape would be able to store 72 times as much data per square inch
as current magnetic tapes. Sony has achieved this using a new soft
magnetic underlayer for tapes on which nano-scale particles can be
deposited with uniform crystalline orientation. The process is carried
out by using a "sputter method" of thin-film deposition, in which
electrostatic discharges force Argon ions to collide with the magnetic
substrate, forming the data layer. Sony's new magnetic crystals measure
7nm on average, whereas current-day crystals are "several tens of
nanometers" in size, according to the company.
The main advance
has been making the underlayer smooth, with a thickness of less than 5
micrometers. This allows crystals deposited by the vacuum sputter
deposition process to lay more uniformly, and with less variation in
size. Existing tape surfaces are rough, leading to non-uniform
deposition, limiting the scope for developing increased densities. The
record of 148Gb per square inch was achieved during experimentation, and
further improvements are still possible.
Using the dimensions of a
standard LTO Ultrium tape cartridge, Sony postulates that it will be
possible to create 185TB cartridges with this new material. That amount
of space would be enough to store as much music as 1,184 160GB iPods
(which is more than anyone could listen to in their entire lifetime),
although eventual products of this type would be aimed at massive-scale
data centres, not personal use.
LTO (Linear Tape Open) cartridges
are widely used for long-term data archival and backups today, even
though similar cassettes have fallen out of favour for consumer
applications. The relatively low read and write speeds and massive
latency due to the linear nature of tape spools make cartridges
unsuitable for direct storage or server applications. With LTO-6, the
current standard, standard sized cartridges can hold 2.5TB. Cartridges
themselves are relatively affordable, but the tape drives required to
read and write to them can be prohibitively expensive.
massive explosion of data stored in cloud storage facilities, according
to Sony, constant backups have become more and more difficult to
maintain, and customers still need the ability to recover them rapidly
following any kind of disaster. Organisations that need to transport
large amounts of data between locations would also be able to use the
Sony has not detailed any plans to launch products
based on its new technology, or the speeds, capacities and price levels
it might be aiming for. The company has stated that further research on
the materials is ongoing, but there is no information about when actual
commercial products might make it to markets.
In March this year, Sony and Panasonic had announced a new Archival Disk format, which would allow for 300GB to be stored on a single disc. The plans called for evolution of the standard to allow 500GB and then 1TB per disc, while retaining backward compatibility.