How IBM and Fujifilm Created a 50TB Tape Cartridge

Fujifilm and IBM have announced the sixth-generation IBM 3592 JF, which boasts an incredible 50-terabyte (TB) native capacity. With 3:1 compression, the cartridge can store 150TB of data. 

For comparison, the current-generation IBM 3592 JD Advanced Data Tape Cartridge provides a mere 10TB/30TB of storage. The 3592 JD, which is currently available, retails for around $200 per cartridge.

Designed for use with the IBM TS1170 tape drive, the IBM 3592 JF represents a step forward in data storage technology. Its extreme areal density also sets the cartridge apart from the LTO-9, its most popular competitor: The LTO-9 offers a comparatively small 18TB in native storage (45TB compressed).

“With 50TB native capacity, 2.5 times the capacity of the previous highest-capacity tape cartridges, Fujifilm believes this breakthrough demonstrates the future potential of tape technology,” said Kei Nagata, deputy general manager of the industrial products division at Fujifilm. in a press release.

“The IBM 3592 JF tape cartridge is yet another milestone in many years of joint research and development with IBM, and we are honored to be the manufacturer of this product.”

The 50TB storage capacity is possible thanks to numerous innovations and refinements.

To achieve the areal density necessary for a 50TB tape cartridge, Fujfilm and IBM improved on technologies developed in previous tape generations. 

The most significant change was the physical size of the tape: By using a thinner and stronger base film to support the magnetic layer (which stores the data), Fujiflim was able to include 15% more tape in the cartridge.

Other innovations:

  • An improved thin-layer coating technology improves the signal-to-noise ratio by achieving a smoother tape surface.
  • Nanoparticle Design Technology (NDT) combines the technologies used in Barium Ferrite (BaFe) and Strontium Ferrite (SrFe) tapes, allowing for smaller magnetic particles with machine-readable magnetic properties.
  • High-dispersion technology to prevent the “aggregation of individual ultrafine magnetic particles.” Essentially, the tape’s magnetic particles are dispersed evenly, ensuring reliable storage at extreme areal density.

While the 3592 JF is an incredible achievement, its use case will be limited — at least, for now. 

Related: Why Tape-Based Data Storage Is Winning the Storage Wars

IBM is positioning the TS1170 for the upcoming enterprise storage boom

Most enterprises are more concerned with price than capacity. The 3592 JF can store about a petabyte of data on seven cartridges, but it’s expected to be expensive when compared with LTO-9 or other TS1170-ready cartridges; most organizations may not have the operational need to make the switch. 

IBM and Fujifilm are certainly aware of that fact, but that’s not the point of storage innovation; the goal is to show the viability of tape as a medium. That will be particularly important when organizations need to expand their archive capabilities to meet the needs of a changing IT landscape.

The artificial intelligence (A.I.) boom, for example, will inevitably lead cloud providers to explore options for at-scale storage. Those enterprises will gladly pay a premium for the small physical footprint of a system that uses 50TB cartridges.

Related: The LTO Roadmap: Breaking the Petabyte Barrier

As tape technology improves, organizations need robust migration strategies.

To realize the benefits of new storage technologies, enterprises need to retire legacy formats. That process can be intensive, particularly when data requires conversion to be made accessible with current-generation systems.

Total Data Migration provides comprehensive solutions for organizations of all sizes. From small data conversion projects to at-scale data migration and media sanitization, we work closely with clients to keep projects on track and within budget — while taking appropriate steps to maintain compliance. 

With support for thousands of combinations of storage technologies and backup applications, we’re prepared to handle your next project. Contact us at (800) 460-7599 to schedule a free consultation or click here for email contact info.