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Sony Developing 185TB Tapes

Nowadays, the majority of standard consumer and business data is stored on hard drives. Either mechanical or solid state, drives have been the storage solution of choice for a while due to their wide availability, cheapness and large capacities. In fact, some might say that the cloud could usurp as the primary storage facility in the future.

Before all this, though, there was tape. In the middle of the 90s, a vast amount of data was stored on magnetic tape. Available in sizes of up to hundreds of gigabytes, tape was the storage of choice when hard drives could only manage megabytes. Looking back, tape perhaps seems archaic – but it’s still used by some, even today, mainly for mass backup.

The benefits of using tape are that it is cheaper and more energy efficient, especially when compared to data centres full of hard drives. The issue is that it takes a long time to restore data from tapes. This is because the data is accessed sequentially, in the order it was written, meaning that the tape has to be wound to a certain position to access specific data. This is why the format is mainly used for backing up of data that doesn’t need any sort of constant retrieval.

Sony has announced that they are bringing tape smashing back into the modern day. The technology giant has developed an 185TB tape and announced it at the Intermag Europe 2014 conference that was held in Dresden, Germany. The tape offers 3,700 more times capacity than a Blu-ray disc can hold. Perhaps it goes without saying, but that’s a lot of data.

Magnetic tape stores data by the square inch and the previous maximum capacity record was 29.5GB per square inch in 2010. Sony’s new tape can hold 148GB per square inch, smashing the previous record out of the park and setting the new record.

“In recent years, the rapid recovery of data systems such as databases and data servers following natural disasters, as well as secure management of information has become ever more important, and companies around the world are proceeding to build new data systems,” Sony said in a statement.

“In addition, the expansion of cloud services and the creation of new markets to utilize big data have led to a growing need for a data storage media which can store large amounts of information.”

Sony developed the new tape by using a technology called sputter deposition. This creates thin layers of magnetic crystals on polymer film by firing argon ions at it. A soft magnetic under-layer was then added, making the magnetic particles measure 7.7 nanometres on average, allowing them to be grouped closely together.

IBM helped Sony measure and evaluate the tape and there have been intentions expressed to continuing enhancing the technology and have the tape commercialised, meaning it will be available for business and/or consumer use.

In other storage news from Sony, they are also working with Panasonic on an Archival Disc for consumers, a format that will hold 1TB of data.

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