The assignee for this patent, patent number 8780490, is
Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates generally to tape cleaning devices used in tape libraries.
"Magnetic tape is essentially a multiple layered ribbon generally comprising a substrate that supports a magnetic layer surface atop an under layer coating. The tape surface is lubricated to improve frictional robustness between the tape surface and a read/write head, which transfers data to and from the tape as the tape moves under the read/write head, the tape being wound between two reels. As the tape moves under the read/write head, an air bearing is created between the read/write head and the tape surface, thus creating an air gap, which in a perfect world induces consistent data pulses and essentially eliminates any wear between the tape and the read/write head.
"Data is stored in the magnetic layer by way of retaining magnetic polarity changes (magnetic pulses) induced by the write element in a read/write head. As the tape traverses under the read/write head the pulses are sensed via the read sensor and with the use of a timer, the pulses are resolved as 1's and 0's known as digital data bits. The air gap created by the air bearing provides a consistent spacing between the read/write head and the tape to repeatedly write the digital data bits predictably.
"In the real world, however, when the tape is read, occasional data bits are missing. This can be due to a variety of reasons including foreign material on the surface of the tape, which can interrupt the air bearing spacing, thus compromising a predictable data write or read. Examples of foreign material include particulate debris on the tape, smudge on the tape, oxide build-up due to micro-corrosion of the magnetic layer, etc. Recovery of the corrupt or missing data bits is commonly accomplished with error code detection and error code correction (ECC) schemes, which are mathematical predictions of expected data, such as a hash function or checksum routine, for example. Likewise, extensive error rate detection can be an indicator that the spacing set up by the air bearing is compromised, perhaps due to a magnetic tape which has foreign material build-up. If foreign material build-up is the culprit to extensive error rate detections, restoring consistent spacing can, in some cases, solve the problem. Accordingly, the removal of foreign material build-up can be accomplished by way of tape cleaning techniques, such as wipe-downs, burnish heads or blades run over the surface of the tape. Such techniques are performed in clean room environments by dedicated independent machines.
"It is to innovations related to this subject matter that the claimed invention is generally directed."
In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "The present embodiments generally relate to a cartridge-based library that comprises at least one tape cleaning device used with intelligent clean algorithms to provide enhanced data robustness and longevity of tape cartridges.
"Some embodiments of the present invention contemplate a tape cartridge library comprising: a plurality of tape cartridges; a plurality of tape drives each adapted to form a cooperating relationship with one of the tape cartridges to perform storage operations; a tape cleaning device, entirely within the tape cartridge library, adapted to automatically receive one of the tape cartridges and made to clean recording tapemedia possessed by the tape cartridge when a predetermined reason for cleaning the tape cartridge is justified. Certain other embodiments contemplate moving a tape cartridge to and from the cleaning device via a robotic tape transporter. Other embodiments contemplate the predetermined reason is justified when a counter device indicates that the tape cartridge reaches a predetermined limit of load events, the counter device keeps track of each of the tape cartridge load events, whereby each of the load events occurs when one of the tape cartridges is loaded in one of the tape drives to form the cooperating relationship; optionally, the counter device is reset to reflect that the first tape cartridge has been cleaned. Other embodiments contemplate the predetermined reason is justified when a time keeping device indicates that the tape cartridge reaches a predetermined time limit from when the tape was either new or had last been cleaned. Yet other embodiments contemplate the predetermined reason is justified when error detections of data being read during the storage operations reaches a predetermined error correction limit, wherein the predetermined limit is based on a tally of the error detections made during a present storage operation on the tape cartridge in addition to a history of error corrections of the tape cartridge is retained in non-volatile storage, or optionally, wherein the history of error code corrections are retained in a medium auxiliary memory device comprised by the tape cartridge, or optionally, wherein the predetermined error correction limit is based on a collective tally of the error corrections from at least two of the tape cartridges, or optionally, wherein the predetermined error correction limit is number of error corrections in an isolated area on the recording tapemedia, or optionally, wherein the predetermined error correction limit is reached on the tape cartridge. In addition to the tape cartridge targeted for cleaning, only proximal tape cartridges are cleaned via the tape cleaning device.
"Other embodiments contemplate the predetermined limit is set by a user of data, or is set by a user of data by way of a graphical user interface. Other embodiments contemplate an alarm system that alerts a user of data indicating that the tape cartridge is targeted to be cleaned. Other embodiments contemplate report transmitting to a user of data (a) an account of all tape cartridges that have been cleaned and/or (b) a schedule of tape cartridges that are going to be cleaned. Yet other embodiments contemplate report transmitting to a user of data (a) an account of all tape cartridges that have been cleaned and why.
"Yet some embodiments of the present invention contemplate a tape cartridge library comprising: a plurality of tape cartridges; a plurality of tape drives each adapted to form a cooperating relationship with one of the tape cartridges to perform storage operations; at least one environmental sensor adapted to sample an environmental condition within the tape cartridge library; a tape cleaning device, entirely within the tape cartridge library, adapted to automatically receive one of the tape cartridges and made to clean recording tapemedia possessed by the tape cartridge when the sample of the environmental condition exceeds a predetermined threshold.
"Other embodiments contemplate the environmental condition is temperature based, i.e., the temperature within the library is either too high, or too low, for example. Such a measurement can be made via a temperature sensor. Yet other embodiments contemplate the environmental condition being an out of range humidity, which can be sensed with a humidity sensor. Yet other embodiments contemplate the environmental condition being an out of range particle count (excessive parts per million) or excessive chemical contamination (damaging chemicals that exceed parts per million, for example), which can be sensed via a particle sensor or a chemical sensor, respectively, for example. Further embodiments contemplate the environmental conditions being related to excessive shock and/or vibration, which can be sensed via one or more shock and/or vibration sensors. It is contemplated that tape cartridges can be cleaned automatically or initiated manually based on an alert. It is further contemplated that prior to cleaning any tape cartridges, the condition which exceeded whatever environmental predetermined threshold was set is resolved first so to avoid exposing cleaned tapes to the same problem. Hence, if the library is found contaminated with excessive particles or something is out-gassing, the library can be cleaned first. If the library is overheating, it can be fixed prior to initiating a tape clean, for example."
For more information, see this patent: Thompson,
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