Future storage on rewind: IBM, FUJIFILM envision cassette as #1

October 24, 2012 by Nancy Owano, Phys.org weblog

(Phys.org)—Both scientific and vendor interest mounts toward The Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a global collaboration of 20 countries that seeks to provide answers about the universe. Computing power of the highest order is going to be needed for the SKA radio telescope, 10,000 times more powerful than any other telescope. The project is to entail over 3,000 satellite dishes spread across land to allow scientists to see more than ten times further away than the most powerful radio telescopes now available. Potential explorations will include the nature of the first stars, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, theories of gravity and black holes, and the origin of cosmic magnetism.

The SKA will be set up in South Africa and Australia. Once complete in 2024, the $2 billion SKA is expected to pump out enormous amounts of data for astronomers and researchers and will require a computer system that is capable of doing so. Besides needing high performance computing engines the project will require data storage capacities that amount to no less of an unprecedented computing challenge.

IBM's Zurich labs together with FUJIFILM is collaborating on an answer, a new wave of ultra-dense tape drives using magnetic tape coated in particles of barium ferrite.

Their work is designed to optimize and based on next-generation tape systems. They have a prototype that can store 35TB (terabytes) of data on to a single cassette tape.

Scientists at IBM Research in Zurich and FUJIFILM have been on this project for some years now, and their claim that the prototype can store 35 terabytes of data can be appreciated when translating that further—35 million books worth of information on a cartridge only 10 centimeters by 10 cm by 2 cm.

FUJIFILM has been noted for its work in "Nanocubic" technology which allows the production of nanometer-scale ultra-thin coatings. Using Nanocubic technology, it is now possible to create data cartridges that offer low noise and excellent storage characteristics, says the company.

This is a dual-coat magnetic tape of barium ferrite (BaFe) particles. The ultra-fine barium-ferrite magnetic medium enables high-density data recording without the use of expensive "metal sputtering" or evaporation coating methods. For consumer use, though, the tape drives worked up by IBM and Fujifilm teams won't be seen for some time. Tape drives generally are known for their time constraints. Accessing data off a tape takes longer than with hard drives. IBM is addressing the limitation, hoping to get the tapes to the point where the process will be comparable to disc drives.

Beyond the SKA project, and as work progresses, ultra-dense tape drives are seen as having an important place potentially in the future of data centers, as a smarter solution to . Data centers with their disc drives in large arrays tend to remain powered up; their platters spin continuously. Data centers based on disc drive arrays use over 200 times more power than would a tape library of similar size, according to The Clipper Group consultancy. Tape drives only use power when they are being read or recorded on. While data centers are choked for space, the tape can fit more storage into a smaller space, as the IBM and FUJIFILM prototype has shown.

Explore further: IBM Research Sets New Record in Magnetic Tape Data Density (w/ Video)

More information: www.newscientist.com/article/m … ig-data-storage.html

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5 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2012
"Data centers with their disc drives in large arrays tend to remain powered up; their platters spin continuously."

With proper design and programming they can be spun down when 'idle'.
5 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2012
I can't help but think that with this will also come the problem that plagued all serial methods of data storage from the past which is the need to search, perhaps from one end of the tape to the other, for the data on the tape. IMHO, that will still be a problem with this "solution."

I recognize the need for portable data storage that allows for extremely large amounts of data, however, it seems that something like the HVD (holographic versatile disc) could meet the data storage requirements of the problem with significantly less latency for data access. To me, the tape solution seems archaic much like JVC's D-VHS was.
3.5 / 5 (4) Oct 24, 2012
which is the need to search

"search" or "seek"?

Because the table of contents for the tape can easily be recorded on a small flash chip besides the tape. That leaves you with only winding the tape to the right position.
3 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2012
A brave new world awaits of unimaginably fast quantum computers coupled with data stored on a tape cassette that needs hand insertion by an operator between cigarette breaks.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2012
"search" or "seek"?

Because the table of contents for the tape can easily be recorded on a small flash chip besides the tape. That leaves you with only winding the tape to the right position.

Was gonna say something like that, but you beat me to it. You could even have a dual write mechanism, so that the "table of contents" chip is inside the cassette housing itself, and is inserted all in one unit, or one flash drive could handle the indexing of dozens of tapes in a large box of such drives.

Of course, you'd want off-site backups of everything so you'd need to be able to copy it all to another device, and in this case all of the backups should be stored far away from sea level, far away from forest fire potential, etc, so it would never be lost.

Of course, the problem of updating the files or defragmenting a tape drive of this size would be truly epic, probably need a second tape and just re-record it in the right order and delete the original.
1.3 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2012
A brave new world awaits of unimaginably fast quantum computers coupled with data stored on a tape cassette that needs hand insertion by an operator between cigarette breaks.

Depends on the type of data.

If you are using obscenely large data sets, each tape becomes a file unto itself. I envisage rows upon rows of cassette drives, and none of them individually need to be changed all that often.

If you are mapping a section of the universe in every detail, or mapping an entire life form at the atomic scale, you could use up such a tape drive per life form. It would be useful to have these data for population of other planets in the distant future, or for learning how to fight cancers and other unknown diseases with a chemical precision we've never known. Only obscenely large, and probably specialized, storage media could contain these data, because there's more to life, genetics, and disease than just DNA and RNA.
5 / 5 (4) Oct 24, 2012
Systems such as the SKA typically produce vast quantities of data that gets recorded and analysed later on. For this, the tape solution is a brilliant idea.

The sections of data being processed, mostly gets downloaded from the tapes to normal HDD based arrays where the random access is not a problem.

There will almost never be a need to read data in a random access way from these tapes.

This is done today by programs like the LHC. The LHC use huge HHD arrays (20PB) but did store something like 50PB of data for on tape in 2011 alone.
Phil DePayne
1.5 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2012
Modern tape data storage is a serious competitor to hard disk data storage. Tape has been quietly increasing in performance quality though you do not hear much about it due to the market dominance of hard drives. By 2024, tape storage will be THE solution for huge amounts of data. Optical storage will still be at an infantile stage compared to the 50 years of development of tape.
not rated yet Oct 24, 2012
^ By 2024 i expect we'll have terrabyte SSDs...
not rated yet Oct 24, 2012
1 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2012
1 holographic drive would replace hundreds even thousands of disk drives.

But alass no has completed the goal and those who were interested
have given up because the market for funding new innovative technology in 3D volume storage is trashed.
5 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2012
I vote 'fail,' too.

Tapes break. Read heads get dirty. Mechanical rollers wear. Data degrades on tape. They're inherently slow.

By 2024, I would hope that solid state storage technology will be far enough along to service the needs of the SKA with vastly better speed, better durability, and far less maintenance.
not rated yet Oct 28, 2012
i vote "workable", sure it would be nice to have some quantum holographic petabyte ssd, but it has to materialise first (given a decade, which could well be the case) , mean time this will fit the bill. Also I wonder where IBM racetrack memory will be in 2020.

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