Glass is the future of data storage, as proven by Microsoft in 2016 when they showed the world how could the DNA strands be used to store data. It serves as the biological counterpart to the traditional flash- or disk-based storage.

But as Microsoft has tested, they found that glass storage is more practical. Somewhat like the traditional DVD recording media, they also used infrared layers to distort the glass but placed it inside the glass and away from the open air. According to Microsoft, the data recorded is read by lasers and decoded by the machine learning as light reflects off the glass.

The growing consensus from the manufacturers worldwide said that glass would be the future of data storage. It is very likely that the world's first petabyte hard disk drive will contain glass to satiate the data storage needed by humanity.

Glass in the World's First Petabyte Hard Disk Drive

The world would produce 175 zettabytes (ZB) of data by 2025 due to the increased demand for high definition video and the growing IoT networks as predicted by IDC. Approximately that is almost six times more data in 2018, and by the end of the decade, the world could reach up to a trillion terabytes.

It was because of Microsoft's Project Silica, which shed light on the usage of glass for data storage that makers of the world's first petabyte hard disk drive got the idea of using glass. Microsoft was able to put 75.6TB of data onto fused silica, which is a 2.5-inch hard disk drive.

Putting that into perspective, the largest hard disk drives in the world currently have a 20TB data storage capacity put in a much larger 3.5-inch hard disk drive.

According to Seagate CTO John Morris, its R&D lab will also use glass for its optical data storage. Also, rivals such as Samsung, Toshiba, and Western Digital are also likely to use glass for data storage.

But there may be some challenges that are needed to solve first. For one, glass is perfect for Write-Once, Read-Many (WORM) use cases as it is a read-only medium. Plus, a terabit internet connection is not yet available for at least a few decades. To back-up, one of these to cloud storage would take a lifetime once they become available in the market.

READ: DNA Data Storage To Last Thousands Of Years


Microsoft's Project Silica

Microsoft's Project Silica was about developing the first-ever storage technology in quartz glass using femtosecond lasers to build an entirely new storage system. This new technology opens up an exciting opportunity to challenge traditional data storage system design and to co-design the future hardware and software infrastructure of the cloud.

Furthermore, this project supports the technologies that were first developed by the researchers at the University of Southampton Optoelectronics Research Center and featured in a keynote on future data storage advances during the Microsoft Ignite 2017.

Project Silica is only a part of the bigger project called Optics for the Cloud that explores the future of cloud infrastructure between optics and computer science.

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