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Sony's Record-Busting Magnetic Storage Tape Unlikely to Stick

Sony's Record-Busting Magnetic Storage Tape Unlikely to Stick

Sony's new high-density magnetic tape technology is intriguing, but it's questionable whether the company can deploy it in a commercially viable product, said tech analyst Charles King. "The IT industry is full of great, innovative concepts that -- if they fail to take reality into account -- could hit the market like a pigeon barreling into a skyscraper at full speed."

By Richard Adhikari
05/05/14 1:22 PM PT

Sony has announced magnetic backup tape with the world's highest areal recording density -- 148 GB per square inch.

It provides about 74 times the recording capacity of conventional mag tape media, Sony claimed.

Data cartridges made using this technology Visit the VMware Tech Center could record more than 185 TB of data each.

This technology "is aimed at applications that require high density, which could range from specialized servers to mega data centers," Jim McGregor, founder and principal analyst at Tirias Research, told TechNewsWorld.

"It would be particularly suited for applications that either generate large amounts of data that need to be stored for long periods, or applications that may need rapid data backup-and-restore capabilities," McGregor continued.

On Tape Technology

The current standard for tape technology is Linear Tape-Open, or LTO. The LTO Consortium, set up by IBM, HP and Seagate, now part of Quantum, licenses and certifies media and mechanism manufacturers.

LTO media consist of magnetic tapes coated with a nanometers-thick dusting of magnetic powder. Its recording density is increased by reducing the size of the magnetic particles, but that's becoming increasingly difficult.

Sony has developed a new vacuum thin film-forming technology that uses sputter deposition to create very fine crystals deposited in multiple layers on a polymer film.

Sony solved the problem of giving the crystals a uniform orientation by optimizing sputter conditions and developing a soft magnetic underlayer with a smooth interface, it explained. That let the company create a nano-grained magnetic layer consisting of magnetic particles averaging 7.7 nm in size.

The Search for Denser Storage

The world created an estimated 1.8 zettabytes of data in 2011, and was on track to generate 50x that by 2020, according to IDC. In 2012, an estimated 2.8 ZB of data was created.

There's no disputing the fact that massive amounts of data are being generated every day, and much of it needs to be stored somewhere. This has led to experiments to increase the density of storage media and look for new storage methods.

These include holographic data storage, but "we've been talking about holographic storage since the late 90s, and no one has been able to really have an uptick in demand for it so far," Mukul Krishna, senior global director for digital media at Frost & Sullivan, told TechNewsWorld.

Can Sony's Tapezilla Take Off?

Sony has not had the best of luck with tape technologies.

It developed the Advanced Intelligent Tape, or AIT, technology, which it sold between 1999 and 2006 in a number of versions, but then abandoned it in the face of competition.

Sony then collaborated with HP on the Digital Data Storage, or DDS, standard. This standard was abandoned after 2009.

IBM currently has a 128-GB per square inch tape technology in development.

"Pushing a new tape format seems like a fool's errand," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told TechNewsWorld.

Sony could make a major impact on the market if it adapted this new technology for the LTO standard, he pointed out.

However, "The IT industry is full of great, innovative concepts that -- if they fail to take reality into account -- could hit the market like a pigeon barreling into a skyscraper at full speed," King warned. "The sheer volume of data that could be stored on Sony's new tape makes the technology intriguing, but if or when Sony can bring a commercially viable product to market are the bigger questions."


Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.


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