IBM Announces 1 TB Tape Initiative

IBM today announced that it has recorded 1 terabyte (TB) of data to a linear digital tape cartridge, storing nearly 10 times more data than any linear tape cartridge currently available. One terabyte is equal to 16 days of continuously running DVD movies, or 8,000 times more data than a human brain retains in a lifetime.

In addition, IBM outlined the product roadmap for its Enterprise 3590 Tape product line that incorporates the 1 TB capacity technology, providing customers with a clear indication of IBM’s future product plans.

The announcement coincides with IBM’s 50th anniversary of magnetic tape storage that ushered in a new era of information processing. In May 1952, IBM introduced the Model 726 tape drive, which stored a total of 1.4 megabytes (equal to that of 1 floppy disk today) on a movie reel over 12 inches in diameter, using a special tape media developed by 3M. 3M’s tape group later became Imation, which continues to be a key provider of tape products.

“IBM’s announcement of the 1 terabyte cartridge demonstrates IBM’s continuing 50 year commitment to tape technology,” said analyst Dianne McAdam of Illuminata, Inc. “This achievement gives users a solid enterprise tape roadmap that they can look to and a value proposition that consistently reduces the number of cartridges required to backup large databases and that, when implemented, will help them to reduce the size of their existing cartridge inventory, saving valuable floor space.”

The 1 TB initiative has been under development since April 2001 at IBM’s Almaden Resaerch Center in San Jose, CA, and IBM storage product development laboratories in San Jose, Tucson, AZ and Yamato, Japan. FujiFilm, another key provider of tape products, provided the advanced tape media used for this technology demonstration. On April 5, 2002 the first 1 TB linear tape was written in a 3590 tape form factor cartridge still small enough to fit in a jacket pocket but capable of storing 1 TB of data – or the equivalent storage capacity of more than 1500 CD’s. The roadmap to the 1 TB cartridge includes the release of a family of enterprise class tape drives supporting cartridge capacities from 200 GB up to the demonstrated 1 TB over the next few years.

“For years, IBM has been creating innovative technologies that push the boundaries of possibility, converting ideas into products that change the way organizations do business,” said Linda Sanford, senior vice president and group executive of IBM Storage Systems Group. “When researchers in the IBM labs released their first commercially available magnetic tape storage device for information processing 50 years ago, they enabled the transition from punched card calculators to electronic computers. Our one terabyte initiative continues this history of innovation and provides our customers with a technology road map that scales for future growth and helps protect their existing investment in IBM tape storage technology.”

According to Giga Information Group, data storage doubles every three years. As enterprise and mid range customers with demanding storage requirements move to consolidate their storage environments, the ability to store large volumes of data in a small footprint will grow in importance.

The ability to store 1 TB of data (uncompressed) into a four inch wide by five inch long by one inch thick cartridge is enabled by IBM innovations including flat lap magneto resistive head technology for enhanced data read and write integrity, high resolution timing based track following servo patterns for scalable high track densities, and IBM’s patented linear tape implementation of a Partial Response Maximum Likelihood* (PRML) channel technology, which increases linear densities and, consequently, data throughput rates. In addition, IBM’s patented surface control guiding technique helps to support optimum tape handling without edge guiding, which can damage tape. Super small particle media formulations provided by FujiFilm are a key component of IBM’s 1 TB linear tape technology.

The 1 TB cartridge created with IBM’s integration of these technologies exceeds a density of 900 megabits per square inch on the recorded media, much higher than areal densities on any current linear tape drive, yet well below fundamental magnetic recording limits.

“We believe that this achievement reinforces IBM leadership in this key storage industry and heightens the already attractive price performance characteristics that help to make tape a vital part of our users storage hierarchy,” said John Teale, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Director of Tape Technology at IBM Tucson.

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