IBM develops 1TB tape cartridge

IBM Corp. has built a tape cartridge capable of storing the data capacity equivalent of 750,000 floppy disks, a tenfold increase on the capacity of today's tape devices, the company said Monday.

The 1TB tape cartridge will eventually allow storage administrators to drastically reduce the cost and the amount of space needed for both tape libraries and long-term data warehouse storage. IBM's largest tape cartridge today holds about 100GB of data, or one-tenth of a terabyte. The cartridge isn't expected to ship for another three to five years as IBM works to improve the rate of speed at which it transfers the data, which remains painfully slow.

Dianne McAdam, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H., said IBM has made a statement about disk storage in a quantum leap over what is normally a doubling of capacity in the evolution of tape drives.

"I believe tape as a storage medium for off-line or near-line storage will continue to be still viable, and by putting their investment in this, IBM is saying that too," she said. "I just don't see the whole world putting lots of data in disk. There's always going to be data in an organization that's great for archiving -- old e-mails, payroll records, old reports. You don't want to clutter up disk with it because disk is still going to be more expensive than tape."

With the advent of its new tape cartridge, IBM said it expects to eventually drive down the cost of tape storage from US$5 per gigabyte today (including storage hardware and software) to about 5 cents.

John Teale, director of tape technology at IBM, said the new tape cartridge transfers data at about 15M byte/sec., far slower than the 100M byte/sec. to 200M byte/sec. data transfer rate of today's cartridges.

"If it takes 15 hours for a customer to get their information back, that's not going to make them very happy," he said, referring to the normal two-hour time frame to restore data from a tape cartridge.

Teale said the road map to the 1TB cartridge shipping will be laced with evolutionary cartridges, including a 200GB to 300GB cartridge in about 18 to 24 months.

"The 1TB would be another 18 to 24 months after that," he said.

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