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Magnetic Tape to the Rescue


Everything old is new again.

Magnetic data is being revived as a viable storage medium for the vast volume of data being created every day.

Credit: Corbis

Magnetic tape is being revived as a viable storage medium for the vast volume of data generated, which doubles every two years at its current rate.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research's (CERN) Alberto Pace says magnetic tape has several advantages over hard disks for long-term data preservation, including speed, reliability, zero power consumption for storage, and security. For example, a broken tape can be spliced back together and only lose a few hundred megabytes of information, while deleting 50 petabytes of CERN data on magnetic tape would take years, rather than minutes for disk-based data.

IBM Zurich research lab's Evangelos Eleftheriou cites tape's lower cost compared to disks, and much greater longevity of the stored data.

However, the looming flood of data is too much even for modern tape cartridges to handle, and higher densities are required. Eleftheriou currently is developing a tape with a density of 100GB per square inch, as well as creating the equipment needed to read it. The technology could potentially yield a cartridge capable of storing more than 100 terabytes, and a key challenge to be met is to position the read/write head to within 10 nanometers.

From The Economist
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