By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Mixtapes. If you’re old enough to remember them, you’re old enough to know that cassettes were the original file sharing medium. But then CDs came along, along with digital downloads and playlists (the modern mixtape) and tape was all but forgotten. Until now, as Sony has created a tape backup storage medium that promises to hold nearly 200TB of data (or as Steve Jobs would see it – 65 Million Songs). Is there a future for magnetic backup in a digital world?
Sony announced the new method of storing digital content via old school tape cassettes at the International Magnetics Conference this week. The new method (known as “spotter deposition”) enables users to store a staggering 149GB per INCH of magnetic tape. That’s crazy! Considering a standard Blu-ray disc can hold 50GB of data, equates to a standard 1 Hr. cassette tape being able to store 185 TB of data! That equates to almost 3800 blu-ray discs, or a complete movie library on the equivalent of one single cassette tape. Sony accomplished this by using layers of magnetic crystals firing through an argon layer at the polymer film substrate to write the data.
Why would Sony look to an old school method of data storage in a digital age? Well, it may be due to the fact that in the commercials market, burned DVDs tend to fade and go unusable over time, some as early as a year after backup. Properly stored, magnetic tape can remain viable for decades. So Sony, and the entire industry, still see magnetic tape as having legs for the future. In fact, according to the Tape Storage Council, tape storage shipments are on the rise, growing up to 26% in 2013.
And tape storage also utilizes far less energy as hard drives, up to 200 times as much, at least according to a report by New Scientist. But how can that be considering tape is a linear medium? With hard drives, the access to data is far easier since the hard drives can read the entire drives with random access, while cassette tapes have to go in a linear fashion. But for long term backup and storage, I can see the allure.
According to Forbes, data storage needs in the digital realm will approach 40 trillion gigabytes, and will grow exponentially from there. Facebook already storages over 1 Petabyte of data on blu-ray discs every year, and it will continue to grow as cloud computing continues to be adopted. But don’t think that you’ll be able to blow the dust off that Sony Walkman any time soon and backup your DVD collection. Sony may be planning to offer a new cassette backup, but it remains to be seen if it’ll have commercial applications beyond cloud storage needs.