US storage giant Western Digital already covers SSDs, memory cards, RAM and hard drives and has dove into DNA data storage (it's a founding member of the DNA Data Storage Alliance).
Now, newly discovered patents suggest the company may consider (re)adding tapes to complement its current media portfolio after its Arkeia product line shut down a few years ago.
The company has lately achieved a number of patents lying to the "integrated tape drive" in recent years:
- 11393498 (PDF) (head assembly with suspension system for an integrated tape drive)
- 20200258544 (PDF) (integrated tape drive)
- 11081132 (PDF) Integrated tape drive with HDD components
- and certain others
This suggests the intriguing possibility of merging the basic components of a tape drive with the actual tape medium in an effort to reduce the environmental and technological difficulties inherent in tape libraries, such as improving access time, at least in one order. of magnitude.
Having the read and write heads closer to the media in a closed form factor is nothing new. That's what hard drives do and what others, including Iomega with their Zip drive, have tried to do before. Western Digital's patent suggests adopting a standardized form factor, XNUMX or XNUMX inches, to make it easier for data centers and hyperscalers to adopt.
the cost factor
Integrated tape would still be more expensive than regular tape (LTO-130 tapes are around $4 each) because of the back-up electronics, but you don't need a tape drive to get started. As long as it's somewhere between tape ($20 per TB) and enterprise hard drives ($XNUMX per TB), there's going to be a significant market for this.
A standard LTO (Linear Tape-Open) tape measures XNUMX x XNUMX x XNUMX mm, while your average XNUMX-inch hard drive measures about XNUMX x XNUMX x XNUMX mm and weighs about a quarter of its weight. LTO-XNUMX has a compressed capacity of XNUMX TB (XNUMX TB uncompressed) with the next generation likely to arrive in the second half of this decade doubling the capacity (obviously there could be some adjustments, as happened when the from Gen eight to Gen eight). Genesis nine).
An LTO-based sealed tape drive is likely to be lighter, more affordable, consume/dissipate less power, but also have more built-in computing capabilities than your standard hard drive. Thicker and wider tape reels would also allow for much higher capacities (LTO-1 uses XNUMX km of tape with a thickness of XNUMX µm and a width of XNUMX mm).
Western Digital is in a unique position to make this an affordable reality, especially since it can draw on its expertise in hard drive components. This new tape could, all things considered, use a circuit board and interface similar to that of a business hard drive; It doesn't have to have the traditional duct tape look.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is adopting this new approach to tape at the LTO Consortium, an organization that oversees LTO development and includes IBM, HPE, and Quantum, all of which may have different business strategies that require an expensive drive and affordable bands. .