IBM has built a tape cartridge capable of storing one terabyte (one thousand gigabytes) of data. Such a capacity is equivalent to that of 750,000 floppy disks, representing a tenfold increase on the capacity of today's tape devices, the company said yesterday.

The 1TB tape cartridge will eventually allow storage administrators to drastically reduce the cost and the amount of space needed for both tape libraries and long-term data warehouse storage.

IBM's largest tape cartridge today holds about 100GB of data, or one-tenth of a terabyte.

With the advent of its new tape cartridge, IBM said it expects to eventually drive down the cost of tape storage from around £3 per gigabyte today (including storage hardware and software) to around about 3p.

But the cartridge isn't expected to ship for another three to five years as IBM works to improve the rate at which it transfers the data, still painfully slow.

John Teale, director of tape technology at IBM, said the new tape cartridge transfers data at about 15MBps (megabytes per second), far slower than the 100-200MBps transfer rate of today's cartridges.

"If it takes 15 hours for a customer to get their information back, that's not going to make them very happy," he said, referring to the normal two-hour time frame to restore data from a tape cartridge.

Teale said the road to the 1TB cartridge shipping will be lined with evolutionary cartridges, including a 200-300GB cartridge sometime within 24 months.

"The 1TB would be another 18 to 24 months after that," he said.

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