Sony and Panasonic Work on New Optical Archival Disc

By Pedro Hernandez

Sony and Panasonic are planning to usher in a new, disc-based era of data archiving that will eventually supplant Blu-ray and perhaps cement a place for optical discs in an era of massive video files and the proliferation of Big Data among businesses.

The Japanese electronics makers announced today that they are working on the Archival Disc standard, a write-once, double-sided disc technology for professional applications. Sony and Panasonic are using their expertise in optical data storage to help overcome the challenges of storing Big Data for the long haul, taking a different route than flash and magnetic storage providers.

"In recent times, demand for archival capabilities has increased significantly in the film industry, as well as in cloud data centers that handle big data, where advances in network services have caused data volumes to soar," said the companies in a statement.

The discs, they claim, can retain data in less than ideal conditions. Archival Discs will "have excellent properties to protect themselves against the environment, such as dust-resistance and water-resistance, and can also withstand changes in temperature and humidity when stored," according to the companies.

An element of future-proofing is also being baked into the tech, which will support "inter-generational compatibility between different formats, ensuring that data can continue to be read even as formats evolve."

Sony and Panasonic plan to roll out Archival Discs and supporting hardware by 2015. A published technology roadmap indicates that the first discs will accommodate up to 300 GB of data. By comparison, Blu-ray discs currently top out at about 100 GB under the BDXL standard, although 25 GB and 50 GB capacities are more common.

Eventually, the companies expect the discs to reach 1 TB of capacity by pushing the standard's signal processing from the initial Narrow Track Pitch implementation to a multi-level recording technology called High Linear Density. Each disc contains three writable layers per side. The companies have yet to disclose data transfer rates.

The companies face formidable competition from an entrenched enterprise tape storage market.

LTO-6, the latest commercially available Linear Tape-Open specification can store up 25 GB per tape uncompressed. With compression enabled, one LTO-6 tape cartridge can hold up to 6.25 TB of data.

The tape industry got a shot in the arm courtesy of Linear Tape File System (LTFS), an IBM-developed tape storage format that enables archived data to appear to users and applications as traditional files, eliminating the need for proprietary backup and archival schemes. The open source technology has been adopted by Quantum, Crossroads Systems, and of course, IBM.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article was originally published on March 10, 2014