Technology

Tape Cassettes are the preferred Big Data Storage medium for Google, Amazon, Microsoft and more

A Tape Cassette

Music is crucial to human existence in a way that one would not die in its absence but life becomes more meaningful and enjoyable with it. The tape is a technology that revolutionized the music industry. It allowed users to store huge amounts of data in the form of songs onto tape as compared to the older and larger Vinyl records. Tapes were more affordable and safe to store for a long time.

Technologies never remain stagnant with human efforts. Since the advent of Compact Disks and later digital music, the era of tapes ended. However, it seems that they have dawned yet again and his time it is not with the music industry. Surprisingly, the features of tape that made it popular against the Vinyl records are the ones that once made it popular yet again.

A popular technology news website Quartz went to Zurich to find out more about the current tape technologies. According to their report, tapes are making a comeback especially with the scientific community and major tech giants.

A Tape to millennial sounds outdated and from the 90s. However, the technologies uncommon to the average Joe are often used for various purposes. Tapes have been used as a standard method for storing data securely for a long time. Its utility and benefits came to the limelight when the world’s largest search engine met with an accident a few years ago.

Google somehow lost significant amounts of its Gmail services data overnight due to some technical glitches. They could retrieve all the data as it was saved on several tape cassettes. This opened up a new domain for the tape cassettes as it caught the attention of the big tech firms that cassettes can be a lifesaver at times.

Huge amounts of money have been spent since then on the advancement of tape technologies for two main reasons. The first reason is that the tapes are not connected to the internet, rendering it safe from hacks and cyber-attacks. The second reason is its affordability as it is cheaper than the modern day portable hard disk drives by around 90%.

IBM is one of the oldest technology companies that are still standing strong. They have been pioneers of technologies that have revolutionized the tech industry time and again. They are yet again ready to bring about necessary advancements in the tape technologies. IBM’s research laboratory in Zurich is working closely with the most advanced science laboratory in the world, CERN. They are working towards making breakthrough innovations in the tape technologies that would be beneficial for the famous Large Hadron Collider, NASA, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and similar companies with their Big Data storage needs.

Mark Lantz and his team from IBM’s research lab in Zurich found a way to store 201 GB of data on a mere 1 square inch of tape real estate. This translates to a whopping 330 TeraBytes of data on a box the size of modern-day portable Hard disk drives. This is a significant development considering the most advanced laptop technologies could not even stand a chance against it.

Stacks of Tape cassettes
[Unsplash]
However, we need to also consider the fact that these technologies are far from public use as the ownership of machines that could read the data stored on these tapes are far from most people’s possession. The big technology companies can afford such technologies at the moment and it is more practical for them to use these as compared to the common public. These companies and research centres have huge cassettes storing warehouses that are managed by robots specially designed to work with tape cassettes. Mark Lantz, in his interview with Quartz, said that there is no other technology that can take over the tape technology in the coming 3 to 4 decades.

-Soumya De

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