In the last few years the tape industry has been re inventing itself and it continues to deliver new technologies and compelling functions including continued cartridge capacity increases, vastly improved bit error rates which now yield the highest reliability of any storage device, a media life of thirty years or more and faster data rates than any other previous tape or disk technology. The era of modern tape has arrived!


A few facts about Tape:

  • Tape is cheaper ($/GB) to acquire than Disk,
  • Tape has a lower TCO than disk,
  • Tape is more reliable than disk,
  • The capacity of a Tape Drive now is higher than that of the largest disk,
  • The media life of modern tape is 30 years or more,
  • LTFS tape now has media partitions for faster “ disk like” access,
  • There is a 10 year roadmap for Tape.


The era of modern tape has arrived  due to the points made above and the fact that the troublesome issues of the past such as edge damage, stretch tear and loading issues are gone coupled with the advent of Barium Ferrite media which has helped redefine the future of Tape  and with the Internet, Cloud, big data and IoT waves promising unprecedented growth, the timing of advanced Tape could not be better.


In terms of Tape media considerations, for years Metal Particulate (MP) was the primary tape media type, however that was made of iron therefore it oxidised over time and its magnetic property deteriorated. However LTO 6 onwards used MP and Barium ferrite. Along with these advances, tape media has increased substrate dimensional stability with reduced thickness, much smoother surfaces, lower defect densities. Tape media is now highly reliable as it must be to be transported around without reliability impact and must have a high capacity and very long life for archival applications which are one of its primary uses today.


Barium Ferrite (BaFe) is made of an oxide and therefore does not lose its magnetic property due to oxidisation. The much smaller particles are one of the main advantages as it allows more particles-per -unit volume and therefore improves the signal to noise ratio and reliability. This is what gives it the much longer archival life of over 30 years.


Security features are included on LTO and enterprise tape drives to address countless compliance and legal requirements including Write-once-Read-Many (WORM), data encryption to protect data at rest and various write-protect capabilities. This becomes more important with GDPR now being in effect.


Since Tape is removable media, it can easily be transported from one location to another in the case of extended power cuts and natural disasters which have become more common in recent years. Given the number of natural disasters potentially forcing Data centres to go without electricity, media portability is a last however valuable line of defence. The “Truck access method” is here to stay. Cybercrime occurrences are on all HDD’s however are negated on Tape with what’s known as the “Tape air gap” since tape data is stored offline and not available to hackers.


This is just a few reasons why Tape has such a bright future.

data tapes

old (left), and new