IBM researchers eye 100TB tape drive
Cartridges that can store a terabyte of data will hit the market within 18 months
IDG News Service - ALMADEN, Calif. -- IBM has begun work on new technologies designed to boost the capacity of tape storage devices by 250 times. Using "nanopatterning" techniques derived from the company's microprocessor division, researchers say they expect to one day build cartridges that can store as much as 100TB of data.
For years, engineers have wrung more capacity out of tape storage by narrowing the tracks of magnetic material that store data on a spool of tape. With its current technology, IBM is now able to store 704 data tracks on the 1.27-centimeter-wide (half-inch) tape used by IBM's TotalStorage 3580 LTO Generation 3 drives. This device can store about 400GB of data, but in order to store more than the 1TB of data that IBM is planning for its next-generation products, researchers say they will have to make some major changes to the way they manufacture tape.
That's where the microprocessor techniques come in. The Almaden researchers are now exploring ways they can use chip techniques such as reactive ion etching (a very precise method for putting patterns on film) or sputter deposition (a method of applying film in a very well-controlled way) to increase the storage capacity of tape.
The ultimate goal is to shrink the size of those tape tracks so that more data can be squeezed onto the same area of tape. "The track size now is in the neighborhood of about 10 microns," said Spike Narayan, a senior manager at IBM Research. His group of 10 researchers hopes to shrink that to about 0.5 micron, or 500 nanometers, within the next five years. "This will carry us all the way to the 100T byte regime," he said.
The problem that Narayan's researchers are grappling with has to do with the magnetic particles that record the 1's and 0's that make up storage data and the way they cover today's tape media. Magnetic particles painted on today's tapes are about 1 micron -- 1 millionth of a meter -- in size, but in order to create data tracks that are smaller than 1 micron, new manufacturing processes will have to be developed.
Another problem is the placement of magnetic particles, which are randomly distributed on today's tape. As the tracks get smaller, particles will need to be placed in a very precise and predictable fashion to ensure that these ultrasmall tracks will have magnetic material -- and not simply blank tape -- on which to record.
Essentially, IBM researchers plan to change the magnetic patterns on tape media from something that is large and uncontrolled
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