"Sony reel-to-reel tapes at the archive of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation."
The iPod let you put your entire music collection in your pocket. Now Sony has something that could let you put the world's music collection in your pocket: a cassette tape that holds 185 terabytes of data.
To put that in perspective, the tape can hold about 60 million songs — far more than anyone could listen to in their lifetime (that would be about 17 million, assuming continuous listening for 100 years, even while sleeping, and 3 minutes per song). All of the printed works of the Library of Congress add up to only about 10 terabytes.
The recording density of the 185TB tape is about 74 times the capacity of current tapes,Sony claims. It was able to achieve heretofore unheard of storage powers by better controlling the tiny magnetic particles that are "grown" to record individual 1s and 0s. Sony optimized a commonly-used process called "sputter deposition," which creates the particles to keep them from growing too big as well as making their magnetic properties more uniform. At the same time, a magnetic "underlayer" of the tape is developed independently to minimize potential disruptions.
The result is a recording medium whose magnetic particles don't exceed 7.7 nanometers in diameter, and a tape capable of holding every single tweet on Twitter (which was about 85TB a year ago).
It's in big-data applications that such a high-density tape is really needed. Facebook, for example, stores more than 300 petabytes of data from its users (a petabyte is 1,000 terabytes), and that data has to go somewhere. Tapes are used for most high-capacity data archiving for the simple reason that the storage density rivals anything else.
With Sony's storage breakthrough, it looks like tape is here to stay. And Big Data just got a potent tool for making its even bigger ambitions really happen.