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IBM announces 317 GB/sq inch tape demonstration, “That does not compute”

By Shawn Brume posted Mon January 04, 2021 10:27 AM


If you are a “propeller head”, December’s announcement is extremely exciting.  I say this as a propeller head sitting in front of my 192 inches of computer screen!  The tape industry, led by IBM, has consistently demonstrated technology five generations ahead of the market ready technology.  Each demonstration spawns’ similar responses regardless of the demonstration.

 In 2000, the introduction of LTO, the announcements of intent were followed by “who would ever put 100GB on a single tape?”, “Nobody needs that much data”… these same statements were made when IBM announced the technology demonstration of 1TB equivalent on a single cartridge.  Which was made available 6 years later on competing STK T10K and IBM TS1100 technologies.

 At the announcement of 8TB cartridges referencing the Library of Congress as a benchmark of storage was falling out of favor, with digital media growth quickly rising above that capacity.  Technologists often fail to communicate the significance of data storage demonstrations.  If you follow what 317 GB/sq inch means for data, the rest of this blog is not for you.  For the simple people like myself, here are five (5) fun facts about the significance of this number: 

  • Over 161, 000 feature length 4K movies! That is all of the feature length films produced globally in the last 30 years!
  • Over 23 million digital mammograms
  • Approximately 30 billion credit card transactions, that is an entire month of every credit card transaction in the world on a single cartridge!
  • The entire capacity of 2200 modern smart phones.
  • Over 23 million PowerPoint presentations (based on averages of 12MB). That is equivalent to the average yearly production of PowerPoint files for a company the size of IBM!

 If we can store this amount of data in such a small space, why is it not already in the market?  Technology tends to be very expensive at introduction and even more expensive in early introduction.  The cost to produce data storage in a lab is 50 to 100 times more expensive than storage that is commonly used by clients.   Meeting the balance of commoditization is important to the adoption of technology.

 All of this data points to a very positive future for magnetic tape storage.  HDD is reaching the limits of physics for providing denser storage.  HDD is very important to operational data that is being accessed and definitely being modified with regular frequency. However, Information technologists are also financial gurus, stretching budgets and transforming the landscape of business. 

 It is very easy to pose the negative case in any point of argument, as 2021 kicks off it is time to look to the future and reflect on the positive:

 How much data are you storing on HDD that has not be accessed in the previous 18 months?

 If tape can be automatically managed is it beneficial to save the same percentage in storage cost as the data percentage not accessed in the previous 18 months?
 Is the value of the reduced storage costs worth the reinvestment in revenue generating technology?

 Take a look at IBM tape solutions for unstructured data, you may find your IT team flush with cash for new activities in the new year.

 Review the original announcement here: https://lnkd.in/d5eZK4p

1 comment



Tue January 05, 2021 11:25 AM

I agree with your write up, these are very exciting news and also exciting times for Tape technology which continues to demonstrate the most reliable and cost effective mean for storing data with a long path for continuous growth.