Magnetic tape may seem like a pretty antiquated data storage technology, but its density and capacity is still hard to beat for big data centers. Now, IBM and Fujifilm have teamed up to create a prototype high-density tape cartridge with a record-breaking capacity of 580 TB.
Other media have come and gone, but magnetic tape has been the go-to storage medium ever since its invention in 1952. That’s thanks to its durability, density, low cost, longevity, energy efficiency and scalability – but all of these stats have of course improved over the decades.
The newest prototype cartridge manages to squeeze in 317 Gigabits per square inch (6.45 sq cm) of tape, which is just 4.3 micrometers thick and 1.3 km (0.8 miles) long if you were to unroll it. That adds up to a huge total data capacity of around 580 TB, which marks quite an improvement over IBM’s previous record from 2017, when it and Sony produced a cartridge of 201 Gigabits/in2 for a capacity of 330 TB.
(Left) A cutaway showing the different layers of the new magnetic tape’s structure, and (right) a comparison between barium ferrite (BaFe) and strontium ferrite (SrFe) particles