Western Digital has received several patents that describe the combination of hard drive and tape drive designs and mechanisms. The documents refer to embedded tape drives (LTO) where hard drive components can be placed. This type of design opens the door to higher capacity and faster drives.
The patents describe a head assembly with a suspension system for an embedded tape drive, a tape embedded drive, and the same drive but with hard disk components. They propose a mechanism for transferring read and write nodes borrowed from hard disks into tape cassettes. In this way, each tape could be turned into a drive in the hard drive form factor.
The standard LTO tape measures 102x105x21 mm, while the average 3.5-inch hard drive measures 147x101x26 mm. The LTO-9 has a compression capacity of 45TB (18TB uncompressed) and is likely to double in the next generation.
It will become more expensive to write to tape when you move to the new format, but the overall cost of storage will be lower than that of hard drives in the same form factor. It will range from $4 per Tbyte on tape to $20 per Tbyte on an enterprise-class hard drive.
The use of flash storage could solve the problem of speed of access to data on tape.
The new approach would allow embedded tape drives to be installed in existing solutions to scale disk subsystems to address capacity shortages.
Meanwhile, giants such as IBM, HPE and Quantum are curating the LTO standard. Their strategy involves expensive drives and entire library complexes and cheap tapes. Western Digital will have to work hard to get its development to market.
According to Future Market Insights, the global HDD market in 2022 will be approximately $38.5 billion. Analysts predict that the industry will show growth due to the development of cloud platforms and data centers, as HDDs remain the preferred option for long-term storage, backup and archiving of information.