Long-term storage on glass

Long-term storage on glass

It’s not the first time a company has wanted to use glass to archive and store data and the needs of the datacenters are becoming more important with the expansion of the Cloud.

Throughout the history of computing, attempts have been made to expand storage space, this has been done through floppy disks of different formats, CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays, hard disks also using different technologies. Today, we learn that Microsoft managed to store Richard Donner’s first Superman film from 1978 weighing 75.6 gigabytes on a glass plate.

Storage on glass is a reality

It’s not the first time a company has wanted to use glass to archive and store data and the needs of the datacenters are becoming more important with the expansion of the Cloud. Given Microsoft’s Azure Park, the firm has decided to take matters into its own hands in 2016 by collaborating with the University of Southampton and renowned partners such as Warner Bros. to create the Silica project. Its name refers to the raw material of glass, silicon, which is found in silica sand and from which glass can be made.

The goal of this project is to store data in the form of 3D pixels called voxels, which are cold etched onto a glass plate using an infrared laser, similar to those used in eye surgery and on multiple layers unlike CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray. This process allows data to be retained for several hundred years.

A demonstration with the film Superman

At Ignite 2019, currently taking place in Florida, USA, Microsoft unveiled its first prototype. The company has succeeded in burning the first 75.6 gigabyte Superman film on 74 layers in a 7.5-centimeter (2.0 mm) thick quartz plate called Task Silica.

The U.S. firm explained that the research team tested the plate’s resistance by soaking it in boiling water, putting it in the oven, scraping its surface with steel wool and microwaving it, nothing affected the reading. Nevertheless, it is still possible to break it, says Ant Rowstron, assistant director of the Microsoft Research laboratory in Cambridge, UK, using tools such as a hammer.

A concept that appeals to his partner Warner Bros., which has more than 20 million archives since its inception in 1923 and adds thousands more every year.

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