IBM and Sony cram up to 330 terabytes into tiny tape cartridge

Enlarge / IBM’s Mark Lantz holding one square inch of the new super-dense magnetic tape. Sony can squeeze more than a kilometre of tape inside a cartridge, for a max capacity of 330 terabytes. (credit: IBM Research)

IBM and Sony have developed a new magnetic tape system capable of storing 201 gigabits of data per square inch, for a max theoretical capacity of 330 terabytes in a single palm-sized cartridge.

For comparison, the world’s largest hard drives—which are about twice the physical size of a Sony tape cartridge—are the 60TB Seagate SSD or 12TB HGST helium-filled HDD. The largest commercially available tapes only store 15TB. So, 330TB is quite a lot.

To achieve such a dramatic increase in areal density, Sony and IBM tackled different parts of the problem: Sony developed a new type of tape that has a higher density of magnetic recording sites, and IBM Research worked on new heads and signal processing tech to actually read and extract data from those nanometre-long patches of magnetism.

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