Sony and Fujifilm are locked in a battle for tape supremacy, with the latter revealing it’s preparing for tape media with an areal density of 224Gbit per square inch, which translates to a real life capacity of around 400TB.
Fujifilm – which has just announced its first Tape-as-a-Service offering – is betting on Strontium Ferrite (SrFe) as opposed to the popular Barium Ferrite, which is used in most LTO tapes, the capacity of which currently top 12TB (uncompressed) or 30TB (compressed using an industry ratio of 2.5:1).
LTO-8 will make way for LTO-9 later this year and, with the last four LTO generations shipped over the past six years, one can expect the next four (LTO-10, LTO-11, LTO-12 and LTO-13) to be available by 2026 (depending on market conditions).
At 384TB, a single LTO-13 tape is likely to be the single biggest unit of storage in the world, far outclassing hard disk drives (with capacities stalling, having grown by only 2TB per generation) and solid state drives, which reached 100TB in 2018 and then stopped growing.
It would take a very bold person indeed to bet against LTO being the first media to reach 1PB (that’s one million Gigabyte).
The biggest issue with tape has to do with accessing the right file, which is why it is seen as an archiving media above all. Transfer rates are unlikely to be an issue, with LTO-13 likely to surpass 16Gbps, but that still means you will need at least a day to fill one up, especially if the tape length surpasses 1,000m.