Advanced tape technologies       


 Mark A. Lantz photo

Advanced tape technologies - overview

Tremendous progress has been made in tape storage technology since the announcement of IBM’s first tape drive—the IBM 726 tape unit—in 1952. The IBM 726, depicted in Figure 1, was able to store data at 6.1 kB/s at an areal density of 1400 bit/in2 and had a capacity of approximately 2.3 MB.

In 2017, IBM began shipping the TS1155 tape drive with an uncompressed capacity of 15 TB in a single tape cartridge and a native sustained data transfer rate of 360 MB/s, depicted in Figure 2. This translates into an improvement of 15,000× in data rate and more than 3,750,000× in areal density (i.e. more than 6 orders of magnitude). IBM’s latest tape library, the TS3500, is depicted in Figure 3 and can store up to 2.25 EB (2.25 × 1018) of uncompressed data.

Currently, tape systems play a central role in archival and disaster recovery applications and are the technology of choice for tertiary bulk storage in enterprise systems due to their very low total cost of ownership, low power consumption, high volumetric density and very high reliability. Tape systems have also become an integral part of active archives, in which data can be migrated to the most appropriate storage tier (e.g. SSD, HDD, tape) and where users can access data from all storage tiers through a common filesystem that represents all the tiers as a single namespace.