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Tape Storage Advancements Aid HIT Infrastructure Data Demands

IBMs latest tape storage achievement highlights the technology's HIT infrastructure uses in handling large volumes of data on-premises.

IBM's tape storage support HIT infrastructure data demands.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations continue to store much of their data on tapes in the face of evolving cloud technology because it is easy to control and secure. Tape storage is also evolving as vendors continue to develop the technology to meet HIT infrastructure storage demands dictated by big data analytics.

IBM Research announced its latest achievement in tape storage, expanding the storage capacity to 201 Gb/in2 (gigabits per square inch) in areal density. This areal recording density is 20 times more than what is currently used in the most advanced enterprise commercial tape drives.

IBM’s new magnetic tape drive can potentially record up to 330 terabytes of data on a single, palm-sized tape cartridge.

Tape storage is popular in the healthcare setting because it is cost effective and has been a staple in data health IT infrastructure storage for years. Organizations are more likely to trust tapes because they have more control over them and are proven to be secure and reliable.

However, as tape storage technology continues to develop and evolve to meet new standards it is beginning to support newer cloud technology.

IBM believes that magnetic tape storage is experiencing a renaissance and the company is confident that tape is viable enough to continue working on scaling it up for another decade.

"Tape has traditionally been used for video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery and retention of information on premise, but the industry is also expanding to off-premise applications in the cloud," IBM Fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou said in a statement.

"While sputtered tape is expected to cost a little more to manufacture than current commercial tape that uses Barium ferrite (BaFe), the potential for very high capacity will make the cost per TB very attractive, making this technology practical for cold storage in the cloud."

The new technologies used to achieve 201 billion bits per square inch include:

  • Innovative signal-processing algorithms for the data channel, based on noise-predictive detection principles, which enable reliable operation at a linear density of 818,000 bits per inch with an ultra-narrow 48nm wide tunneling magneto-resistive (TMR) reader.
  • A set of advanced servo control technologies that when combined, enable head positioning with an accuracy of better than 7 nanometers. This combined with a 48nm wide (TMR) hard disk drive read head enables a track density of 246,200 tracks per inch, a 13-fold increase over a state of the art TS1155 drive.
  • A novel low friction tape head technology that permits the use of very smooth tape media.

Cloud storage is becoming more popular in healthcare, but no healthcare organization will deploy their environment completely in the cloud.

ClearSky Data CEO Ellen Rubin told HITInfrastructure.com that entities are currently faced with hybrid storage situations that include an on-premises element.

“Healthcare organizations are living in this hybrid reality for the foreseeable future so they need to decide how they want to handle the portfolio of infrastructure,” Rubin stated. “That’s what entities are trying to figure out right now.”

Organizations have several options for modern on-premises storage infrastructure that is scalable and can handle the influx of unstructured data produced by connected medical devices.

Many organizations continue to use tape storage, but rack servers and flash-based arrays are also viable and future-proof on-premises storage options.

Flashed-based arrays bring down operating costs because of how they’re built. Flash-based arrays use solid-state drives (SSD), meaning they do not have fans or get as hot as traditional datacenter hardware, which helps bring down maintenance costs significantly.

Healthcare cloud technology is continuing to grow, but organizations need to keep advancing on-premises solutions for unstructured data and backup recovery that can easily be scaled without costing too much money.

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