back to article Sony nanotechnicians invent magnetic tape that stores 148 Gb per square inch

Researchers at Sony have developed a new kind of magnetic tape that can store 74 times the data of current designs, dramatically cutting the amount of room needed for backup libraries. The tape is manufactured using a new vacuum thin-film forming system that deposits a string of uniformly orientated nanocrystals in a layer …


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  1. Infidellic_

    Time to fill

    Can someone enlighten me as to how long it would take to stream data onto or off that though?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Time to fill

      Ummm, no. The reason being, the tape drive itself is not available. Given that compression is also used, it makes it harder. You could go with LTO-6 speeds but with the higher density, if the drive could handle the same tape speed and compression, it would be 29,600MB/s. LTO-6 can handle 400MB/s with a 2.5:1 compression ratio.

    2. RobHib

      Re: Time to fill

      If tape transports remain the same or similar then data steaming off the tape will increase directly in proportion to the increased bit density. There's caveats however: at such densities tape handling will likely be slower so as to avoid tape damage, improve tracking etc. Also, to ensure storage remains error-free then it's likely the additional area required by error-checking codes will probably be substantially larger than we're currently used to (this will reduce the effective [operational] density significantly).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Time to fill

      What's the density of that in a unit that's actually been taught in the last 35 years?

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: Time to fill

        What's the density of that in a unit that's actually been taught in the last 35 years?

        A density approaching end users?

        Actually, that would make a good unit of density: 1 End User. Not sure what it would equate to. Or 1 Justin Bieber? Hmm. This has possibilities - anyone else with good suggestions?

  2. RobHib

    Truly impressive densities.

    That density is truly impressive. I've always been a fan of tape but I'd just about given it up for all the obvious reasons. If Sony can actually pull this density off in a realistic practical way then this will truly put tape back in the mainstream.

    Moreover, densities of 148 Gb/in^2 are sorely needed, as there's a desperate need for good long-term high density archiving storage and such. We've been hitting the stops for awhile now--storing large amounts data on disks is fraught with problems, existing tape insufficiently dense etc., and all the other promised technologies have yet to eventuate (holographic storage and such have not materialised).

    It will be interesting to see how resilient such high density storage actually is in practice. At such densities I'd imagine there'll be very little signal margin, the S/N ratio being such that sophisticated data separators (a la hard disks) will be required as a matter of course. It's worth keeping in mind that traditional tape loses remanence at the rate of a few percent per year, so the specs on storage time versus data retention is everything--it's the key issue at these densities.

    (It's my understanding that the best HD recordings have magnetic domains that are down to about 100,000 atoms, it'll be interesting to make a comparison when figures become available.)

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Truly impressive densities.

      Wouldn't actual transfer speed be a factor too? This must also take some rather special heads to address that density - would be interested in how they go about constructing those. The medium is only one part of the equation.

      Interesting development.

  3. RedneckMother

    Keep your "taters" to yourself!

    Sorry, but "orientated" should, IMHO, be "oriented".

    Just another Common Tater, being my usual self...

    1. david 12

      Re: Keep your "taters" to yourself!

      When at University, I always used to help out at the start of each new year, showing the freshmen which way was East. I think it helped.

    2. Vociferous

      Re: Keep your "taters" to yourself!

      If you occlude the occident you're left with the orient.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The tape capacity will be reduced in practice

    Because the first few blocks of every tape will be reserved by Sony for a rootkit, to make sure you don't attempt a restore just anywhere. This is entirely for your benefit.

  5. Tom 64

    Applicable to HDD?

    If you can whack this tech on an HDD, I'll take one.

    1. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: Applicable to HDD?

      Seagate is already preparing hard disks that store a whole terabit in a square inch.

  6. Winkypop Silver badge


    More space for kitten video backups!

  7. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Have you got...


  8. LoopyChew

    Just imagine how much pr0n you can lose when you accidentally leave the tape next to an unshielded speaker!

    1. Lusty


      None at all. Research was done ages ago and showed no data loss whatsoever in this scenario.

  9. localzuk

    Commercial product?

    I wonder if they'll release it as a commercial product at that density though? Or will they play the usual "gradual increment" game. Eg. Release a 20TB tape, so they'll be the market leader, then release a 40TB one a year later, etc... So, they stay ahead of the curve, but can continue to milk the market for money by artificial scarcity...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    tapes still have some good advantages

    Tape still has a lot of advantages over on-line hdd backup, such as:

    - keeping copies at several different locations for the price of a cheap tape (or even HDD as media)

    - standard hardware and software to restore with almost anywhere

    - when full they don't get corrupted and stop backing up (an issue a colleague had when trying to restore from a corrupted online hdd backup system)

    - if you get a corrupted tape(HDD) you can use another one, I've not had one corrupted for 20 years

    - if you get malware throughout your network it can't muck up your backups, they're offline

    - any staff member can swap tape(HDD), fill in log, monitor trends, sysadmins just double check

    - tape and hdd media can be broken in different ways, I think tape is more robust

    There are probably other advantages, but not many disadvantages compared to on-line HDD

  11. A Twig

    "The tape is manufactured using a new vacuum thin-film forming system that deposits a string of uniformly orientated nanocrystals in a layer less than five micrometers thick."

    Any more info/detail on this? From the press release it seems to be hinting at some sort of Ar sputter using material targets?

  12. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    How robust though?

    How long will the tape stand up to being archived (one of our main uses for tape), and how resistant is it to damage? It seems to me that if you have that kind of data density, that the tiniest hiccup by the tape transport machinery could cause you to lose a LOT of your backup really quickly, while having it spread out a bit more, the damage would be confined to less files/data.

    IMHO, plan on recording data you care about at least twice. This is my complaint with the emerging >8TB HDDs too---that's a quick way to easily lose a lot of data on one unit. Plan on using two at least for reliability.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: How robust though?

      I have had very good results recovering data from "very old" (30..40 years) tapes. Of course with such large "bits" one would expect that. The issue with any storage medium these days (OK, maybe not no-name spindles of CD/RW from the flea market) is not so much media lifetime, but "what do I do with those bits". Try reading a Word3 file with any Word that runs on any computer you can find? How about that film/music/ebook whose DRM server died with the shell-company that ran it? If you can even get the tapes out of your modern (for the 2000s) tape-safe with electronic lock.

  13. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Extending the LTO roadmap

    I'm guessing that will be LTO12 or something equally silly.

    We were supposed to have 8-12Tb tapes by now (after the last breakthrough) and it hasn't happened yet, although T10000D is pretty large.

  14. John McCallum

    How about that film/music/ebook whose DRM server died with the shell-company that ran it?

    It doesn't even need a shell Co. just an arsehole Co. like Adobe.

  15. jcpw

    Density compared to HDD?

    So how does that TB per square inch compare to the best HDD equivalent? HDD density seems to be hitting a limit (see the article about Seagate 10TB drives and HAMR)

  16. aberglas

    Until you lose the encryption key...

    Many if not most backups are encrypted with symmetric keys stored somewhere, and probably backed up onto the same tapes. There is a disaster waiting to happen...

  17. Miss Config

    Nanotechnicians ?

    How do they make technicians THAT small in the first place ?

    1. willi0000000

      Re: Nanotechnicians ?

      the nanotechnicians are robotic - just use your quantum mechanics toolkit.

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