Microsoft will store data in glass parallelepipeds they will
Hardware

Microsoft will store data in glass parallelepipeds – they will last for several millennia

Microsoft company announced about the change in priorities of the Silica project. Instead of archiving music and movies, Silica media and libraries will become the basis of Microsoft’s cloud storage centers. This will allow us to quickly commercialize a solution for a resource-efficient method of archiving data on glass media that is free from time and environmental constraints.

    Image source: Microsoft Research

Image source: Microsoft Research

According to business experts, long-term data storage systems require hard drives to be replaced at least every five years and tape media, “If you’re not afraid to use them”, change every ten years. The transmission of information involves costs and the risk of information being lost. Glass media, on the other hand, is written once and can store data for at least 10,000 years, says Microsoft. The company previously planned to store music and films on such media, having, for example, recorded the film “Superman” on Silica Media in 2019.

Project Silica’s recording technology is still complex and multi-stage. The data is recorded in a special system using a powerful and fast laser, which deforms the thickness of the glass step by step, creating a continuous pattern of volumetric pixels – voxels. To read the voxel sequence, another setup is used with a powerful microscope and polarizing light, which transmits the data to a computer. Finally, the sequence of voxels and even their spatial arrangement must be decoded using a special algorithm in order for the archive to become a readable file. This all sounds complicated, even for a data center, but it all happens for a reason.

Data on palm-sized silica glass plates is extremely difficult to damage. They are recorded in the thickness of quartz glass and cannot be destroyed by radiation, light, magnetic pulses, water, fire or scratches. Libraries based on glass plates are passive. They simply store records on special shelves, like books in a library. The required piece of glass is found and brought to the reader by a small robot, which moves from shelf to shelf like an acrobat, moving along the guides along the shelves. The consumption of such libraries is simply ridiculous by today’s standards, as some modern data centers almost require their own nuclear power plants to operate.

However, new “perpetual” libraries will not appear soon as part of Microsoft Azure cloud services. It will take at least three or four more generations of the platform before it begins to reach its commercial potential. In modern design, each of these disks can store 7TB of data. The capacity of a commercial solution may vary and will most likely be larger.

About the author

Dylan Harris

Dylan Harris is fascinated by tests and reviews of computer hardware.

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