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IBM Sees Magnetic Tapes As Mainstream Data Storage Media In Next Decade

Although the total volume of data is expected to grow exponentially from proliferating technologies such as 5G, IoT, and autonomous driving applications, magnetic tapes will likely still remain the mainstream data storage medium over the next 10 years. This recent assertion is supported by the idea that magnetic tape storage capacity is expected to grow 30% per year, compared to only 10% for hard disc storage, according to IBM.

At a recent IBM forum in Taipei, the company’s Greater China CTO said that magnetic tapes, after around 50 to 60 years of development, have been a preferred medium to store data mainly because they are cheaper than hard discs and also boast a longer storage life, being able to maintain the security of its data for between 30 and 50 years.

Many data center operators choose magnetic tapes to build their backup data files, but in order to meet different usage needs for cold data and hot data, new storage architectures will need to become available in the future, including a mixed use of flash, tape, and FLAPE (flash + tape).

Data storage industry sources claim that between 70 and 80% of all data stored at data centers are stored with magnetic tapes, although hard discs are increasingly adopted whenever costs permit. Because of this, IBM has developed the Linear Tape Open (LTO) initiative in cooperation with HP and Seagate, and is now the bellwether of magnetic tape technology, which has advanced to LTO-8.

IBM and Sony have also recently teamed up to break the areal density record for the magnetic tape medium, successfully cramming 201 billion bits of uncompressed data into each square inch of tape.

Industry news sources cited Seagate’s estimates that global data volumes will grow from 33ZB in 2017 to over 175ZB by 2025, predicting a growth factor of over 500% within the next eight years.