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Breakthrough May Lead to 35TB Magnetic Tapes

IBM Research and FUJIFILM Corporation announced that they have demonstrated a world record in areal data density on linear magnetic tape, 29.5 billion bits per square inch using barium ferrite (BaFe) particles.

According to the statement, this demonstration points to the possibility of eventually developing a single tape cartridge capable of holding 35 terabytes or 44 times the data capacity of today’s LTO 3 Generation 4 tape format.

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Unedited IBM Research press release follows:

IBM Research sets new record in magnetic tape data density

Important milestone in storing, protecting and accessing increasing volumes of data for a smarter planet

Zurich, Switzerland, 22 January 2010—IBM researchers today announced they have demonstrated a world record in areal data density on linear magnetic tape — a significant update to one of the computer industry’s most resilient, reliable and affordable data storage technologies.

This breakthrough proves that tape technology can increase capacity for years to come, which has important implications, as tape storage systems are more energy efficient and cost-effective than hard disk drive storage systems. Businesses and governments use magnetic tape to store, protect and access large volumes of important data, including: data and video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery, and retention of information required for regulatory compliance.

The scientists at IBM Research – Zurich, in cooperation with the FUJIFILM Corporation of Japan, recorded data onto an advanced prototype tape, at a density of 29.5 billion bits per square inch — about 39 times the areal data density of today’s most popular industry-standard magnetic tape product*. To achieve this feat, IBM Research has developed several new critical technologies, and for the past three years worked closely with FUJIFILM to optimize its next-generation dual-coat magnetic tape based on barium ferrite (BaFe) particles.

“This exciting achievement shows that tape storage is alive and strong and will continue to provide users reliable data protection, while maintaining a cost advantage over other storage technologies, including hard disk drives and flash,” said Cindy Grossman, vice president, IBM Tape and Archive Storage Systems.

These new technologies are estimated to enable cartridge capacities that could hold up to 35 trillion bytes (terabytes) of uncompressed data**. This is about 44 times*** the capacity of today’s IBM LTO Generation 4 cartridge. A capacity of 35 terabytes of data is sufficient to store the text of 35 million books, which would require 248 miles (399 km) of bookshelves.

“This tape storage density demonstration represents a step towards developing technologies to achieve tape areal recording densities of 100 billion bits per square inch and beyond. Such technologies will be necessary to keep up with the rapid increase in digital information. IBM is in the unique position to help clients store, maintain and analyze the wealth of data accumulating, and thus help them achieve efficiencies and advantages in the way they do business,” comments Evangelos Eleftheriou, IBM Fellow.

Critical business data is often contained in automated tape libraries, where one or more tape drives service dozens to thousands of tape cartridges. High-end tape libraries can store petabytes — millions of gigabytes — of information. On a per-gigabyte basis, tape systems currently cost about one-fifth to one-tenth of a hard disk drive (HDD) storage systems, depending on the size. Also, tape is by far one of the most energy-efficient storage technology available today because tape cartridges only consume energy when being accessed unlike disks, which spin continuously.

For the past several years, scientists from IBM Research – Zurich have dramatically improved the precision of controlling the position of the read-write heads, leading to a more than 25-fold increase in the number of tracks that can be squeezed onto the half-inch-wide tape. In addition, they have developed new advanced detection methods to improve the accuracy of reading the tiny magnetic bits, thereby achieving an increase in the linear recording density of more than 50 percent. Another key enabling technology for achieving the required track-follow performance in this demonstration was a new, low-friction read-write head developed by IBM Research – Almaden, which has also been collaborating with FUJIFILM to develop next-generation media.

IBM has a long history of innovation in magnetic-tape data storage. Its first commercial tape product, the 726 Magnetic Tape Unit, was announced nearly 60 years ago. It used reels of half-inch-wide tape that each had a capacity of about 2 megabytes. The areal density demonstration announced today represents a potential increase in capacity of 17,500,000 times compared with IBM’s first tape drive product. This announcement reaffirms IBM’s continued commitment and leadership in magnetic tape technology.

As the planet becomes more intelligent, integrated and interconnected, there will be an explosive growth in the rate at which data is created. The majority of this data, such as transportation traffic patterns, the food supply chain, image rich media, and health and financial industries, will be stored on tape.

Technical details: IBM’s world-record achievement leverages notable improvements in four areas of the magnetic tape system

1. New high-density, dual-coated particulate magnetic tape: Developed by FUJIFILM Corporation in Japan in close collaboration with IBM Research scientists, this next-generation version of its NANOCUBIC(TM) tape uses a new ultra-fine, perpendicularly-oriented barium-ferrite magnetic medium that enables high-density data recording without using expensive metal sputtering or evaporation coating methods.

2. Advanced servo control technologies for ultra accurate head positioning: Three new servo control technologies have been developed by IBM Research – Zurich, leading to a more than 25-fold increase in the number of data tracks that can be squeezed onto the half-inch-wide tape:
* a new servo pattern, enabling the generation of high-bandwidth nanometer-scale position information;
* a new method for detecting and decoding the position information encoded in the servo pattern, and
* advanced state-space-based control concepts that, combined with the other two technologies, culminated in the demonstration of an extremely precise track-follow performance of less than 24 nm standard deviation from the target track position.

3. These technologies were instrumental in reducing the track width to less than 0.45 micrometers.

4. Innovative signal-processing algorithms for the data channel: An advanced data read channel based on a new data-dependent noise-predictive, maximum-likelihood (DD-NPML) detection scheme was developed at IBM Research – Zurich to enable the accurate detection of the data despite the reduction in the signal-to-noise ratio resulting from the use of an ultra-narrow 0.2-µm data reader head. With this technique, which also takes the noise characteristics of FUJIFILM’s BaFe medium into account, a linear density increase of more than 50 percent relative to LTO Generation 4 was achieved.

5. Low-friction GMR (giant magnetoresistive) read/write head assemblies: Two new head technologies have been developed by the tape development and research teams at IBM Research – Almaden, namely, a new reduced-friction head assembly that allows the use of smoother magnetic tapes and an advanced GMR head module incorporating optimized servo readers. These head technologies were critical for achieving the required track-follow performance mentioned above.

*The demonstration was performed at product-level tape speeds (2 meters per second) and achieved error rates that are correctable using standard error-correction techniques to meet IBM’s performance specification for its LTO Generation 4 products.

**Note that this calculation assumes a roughly 12% increase in tape length due to the reduced medium thickness.

***Note that this has been rounded up from 43.75 times.

Unedited FUJIFILM press release follows:

Fujifilm’s unique barium ferrite (BaFe) particle achieved the world’s highest areal density: 29.5 billion bits per square inch on linear magnetic tape.

This leads the way to develop a 35 trillion bytes of data capacity per cartridge.
(44 times*1 the data capacity of today’s most popular industry-standard magnetic tape product)

January 22, 2010

FUJIFILM Corporation (President and CEO: Shigetaka Komori) has announced that in cooperation with IBM Corporation (New York, U.S.A.), the two companies have demonstrated a world record in areal density on linear magnetic tape. An areal density of 29.5 billion bits per square inch with magnetic tape media using BaFe particles*2. The demonstration points to the possibility of developing a single tape cartridge capable of holding 35 terabytes. This is 44 times*1 the data capacity of today’s industry most popular standard magnetic tape products, LTO*3 Generation 4.

Currently, large capacity data storage media is required due to the increase in worldwide data storage volume. For further capacity expansion of magnetic tape storage media, it is necessary to micrify the particle size and increase the recording density. However, this is extremely difficult using metal particles, which is the most popular among the magnetic tape media market. It is essential to keep high coercivity for high density recording. Therefore, ahead of the other media manufacturers, Fujifilm has advanced the development of BaFe particles. This advanced development offers to keep high coercivity (using micro fine particles), lower noise, higher frequency characteristics and superior storage performance than metal particles. In 2006, in collaboration between Fujifilm and IBM, a world record in data density on linear magnetic tape was achieved using BaFe particles with a density of 6.67 billion bits per square inch.

In this demonstration, Fujifilm employed advanced NANOCUBIC technology – Advanced NANO particle, Advanced NANO coating and Advanced NANO dispersion. Using these technologies, Fujifilm succeeded in the microparticulation of BaFe particles to 1600nm³ which is approximately one-third of the current metal particle volume, the uniform dispersion, and the uniform coating of super smooth thin magnetic layer. Also, the new perpendicular orientation technology controlled the particle disposition at the nanometer size and the new tape surface allows the tape to run smoothly. The combination of Fujifilm’s technologies and IBM’s new servo format pattern, new signal processing technology, and low-friction head technology improved the areal density dramatically to achieve a density of 29.5 billion bits per square inch.

Fujifilm has applied the most advanced technologies such as NANOCUBIC technology to recording media products for large capacity data storage. Fujifilm have supplied high capacity and quality data storage media such as IBM 3592 data cartridge*4 (640GB/1TB) for the enterprise data storage market and maintained the largest production share of LTO Ultrium cartridge in the midrange data storage market. With the use of BaFe particles, Fujifilm will continue to take the lead in the development of large capacity data storage media in the field of recording media products. This includes the highly functional material field and to support the development of advanced data storage systems.

Fujifilm contributed to this world’s highest areal density with the following technologies.

1. 1. Advanced NANO particle technology
* Fujifilm’s new synthesis technology achieved the microparticulation of BaFe particles to 1600nm³ which is approximately one-third of current metal particle volume.
* It inhibited the variability of particle volume by microparticulation which was able to generate stable uniform volume super-fine BaFe particles.

2. 2. Advanced NANO coating technology
* Fujifilm succeeded in the uniform coating of super smooth thin magnetic layer which has very little thickness variation to reduce noise.
* By adopting a new design of the magnetic surface layer, Fujifilm achieved a smooth and low-friction magnetic surface layer and drastically reduced the fluctuation of signal output. This contributed to the improvement of data density.

3. 3. Advanced NANO dispersion
* A new dispersion material was used to control agglomeration of micrified particles. Fujifilm succeeded in the uniform dispersion of super fine BaFe particles.

4. 4. NANO perpendicular orientation
* Fujifilm achieved the high-performance orientation by controlling BaFe particles in the nanometer sizes.
* Perpendicular orientation can take advantage of BaFe particle’s crystal magnetic anisotropy to achieve the higher frequency characteristics.

* *1 This is rounded up from 43.75 times.

* *2 This was confirmed in the demonstration conducted in IBM Research – Zurich.

* *3 Linear Tape-Open, LTO, the LTO Logo, Ultrium and the Ultrium Logo are trademark of HP, IBM, and Quantum in the US and the other countries.

* *4 Tape cartridge for IBM TotalStorage®Enterprise Tape Drive 3592.

(TotalStorage® is the registered trademark of IBM Corporation in the U.S.A. and the other countries.)