What if you could store 360 terabytes (TB) of information on a disc the size of a 50 cent coin? Although it may sound too good to be true, researchers from the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have created just such a medium.
There’s no doubt this small glass disk will have a huge impact on ICT. Smart devices won’t have to continuously send information to the cloud. Behemoth data centres could become outdated. The possibilities are exciting, but how does this device work?
Introducing: 5-D digital data
The University of Southampton’s scientists constructed the disc using nanostructured glass. Encoding data onto a disk entails generating short, powerful pulses of light directed over three layers of nanostructured dots that are approximately five micrometres – or one millionth of a metre – apart.
Already, the researchers have used the discs to store the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton’s Opticks, the King James Bible and Magna Carta. These disks can not only hold 360TB of data each, but also last for 13.8 billion years at 190 degrees Celsius.
To be fair, no company in the world will need to preserve data for that long, but the disc could be a harbinger of humanity, delivering information about our race to whichever species succeeds us.
“It is thrilling to think that [the ORC] have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations,” said ORC Professor Peter Kazansky.
“This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”
Decreasing temperature management concerns
The fact that the ORC’s disc can last for an unfathomable amount of time at intense heat addresses a key concern among data centre managers: temperature management.
Companies managing their own data centres, whether they be large financial institutions or internet service providers, allocate many resources to ensuring facility temperatures do not exceed maximum standards. Hot and cold air distribution is a science, ensuring server cabinets do not overheat.
Researchers from the University of Toronto’s Department of Computer Science conducted an experiment to test how high temperatures impacted hardware performance. The goal was to determine whether server management professionals could raise the average temperatures of their data centres without damaging equipment.
Placing two types of disk drives (SAS and SATA) into a heat chamber, the scientists tracked the devices’ random-read and random-write tasks. Upon increasing the chamber’s temperature, the researchers registered a throughput drop of between 5 and 10 per cent. In some cases, throughput declined as much as 30 per cent.
A drop in disk performance typically impacts services that depend on IT assets. When a business depends on those services to operate competitively, such issues can impact its bottom line.
Assessing the total cost of ownership
The University of Southampton’s disc, if implemented on a massive scale, would likely reduce the temperature administration costs associated with the TCO.
However, temperature management is just one factor included in storage’s TCO. Hitatchi Data Systems wrote a white paper titled Storage Economics: 4 Principles for Reducing the Total Cost of Ownership. The second principle, The 34 Types of Money, lists 34 expenses included in the TCO, a few of which are listed below:
Will the ORC’s disc address these costs? It’s capabilities suggest that could be the case. Only time will tell.