Glass : The Future of Storage

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 Petabytes 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.

Hdd, Hard Disk, Disk, Hardware, Harddisk, Hard, Pc
Conventional Hard-disk


Future of Data Storage

Do you remember the scene in movie Men in Black where universe is built in a cat's collar? Our technology is getting close to it. Researchers are exploring the fifth dimension which is humanity's new way to store information in almost just as little space. The smaller and more robust information storage devices get the more likely they'll be able to outlive us. And isn't that exactly what we want? For the things we do and the things we say and create and feel to live beyond us. If everything were to remain as it is with our faulty hard drives and flimsy CDs all the information we have today would degrade and soon. But what if we thought of a new way to conceptualize information? What if information couldn't just be recorded in three dimensional space? What if computers could learn to read information based on the bending of light inside glass?


Well that makes literally no sense unless the researcher at the UK University of Southampton. The group deserves all of the awards because of their sheer ability to conceive of an extra dimension of digital information. In 2013 they successfully created a glass disk that reads data in five dimensions of space – glass disk that stores information so densely that it retains three thousand times the information of a normal CD. And brownie points, according to the university, it lasts something like thirteen point eight billion years which is the age of the known universe and three times the age of Planet Earth itself and it can sustain the blistering heat of a thousand degrees Celsius. 

Memory, Storage Medium, Hard Drive, Hdd, Technology
Concept of Glass-Disk


Our Blu ray Disc stores 128 gigabytes of data but a glass disk of the same size stores 360 terabytes. That would take up a hard drive the size of a normal human body. Let see how this scientific black magic works. Think of it like a normal CD – a normal everyday household CD is just a bunch of lines in a circle. Each line has a bump and each bump gets read by a laser as a one as yes and on. No bump means zero as no and off. These two dimensions on and off are binary code. The language of every computer ever and its most basic these glass disks shatter those bumps and stacked them into three layers to make nano structure that can read by only lasers only. 



Creating these three dimensions of x, y and z is what makes storing, this mind boggling amount of data even possible. And they call it nano grating which I think sound like a weapon in a Star Trek flick. They placed nano scale dots so precisely that they can sit in different orientations making the light refract off of them in different directions entirely and at different intensities. Some dots let in a ton of light and other dots not so much. With a special disk reader that is on its way to becoming commercially viable product these devices use a powerful microscope and a polarizer to read the data of bombs stacked up at different degrees letting light through or not. The tech is pretty much perfected at this point and because the glass is an incredibly tough material it can not only encode anything digital but survive most any damage that would completely warp and a CD or hard drive that exists today ever. 


University, Lecture, Campus, Education, People, Seminar
Lecture at University

Just to prove it, the researchers at the University of Southampton put copies of the Bible Isaac Newton's optics and the UN Declaration of Human Rights on discs already. For today though the tech that makes these glass Superman crystals isn't cheap which is what's stopping it from being in your home. Right now, though formats, this tech is already here, and as it matures it will get cheaper and easier for us. It’s always a challenge to get people to adopt a new technological to make and that will ultimately make it the more attractive option for the future of information. 


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.