Tomorrow's world

Editorial Type: Technology Focus Date: 2018-11-01 Views: 1,179 Tags: Storage, Research, Strategy, HDD, SSD, Tape, Hammer, Seagate, Quantum, WD, Spectra Logic PDF Version:
What do crystals, glass and DNA have in common? They are all innovative new ways to potentially meet the growing demand to store vast amounts of data, explains Nick Powling from Exertis Hammer

IDC, which has been predicting data growth for many a year, says that the digital universe could grow to more than 160 zettabytes (ZB) of data by 2025, fuelled in no small part by the rise in social and mobile activities. According to StorageCraft in its 'Big Data Report', for example, this year the total number of emails sent per day will exceed 281 billion. By 2022 it will reach more than 333 billion.

Add to that the data being generated by the Internet of Things - where connected devices across the home are swapping digital information - and that projection of 160ZB looks easily achievable.

As the volume of data continues to increase, the challenge facing the storage sector is to find ways to meet the demand to store it. "Current infrastructure can handle only a fraction of the coming data deluge, which is expected to consume all the world's microchip-grade silicon by 2040," claimed Wired.

True, not all the data generated will be kept for long, or even at all, as Spectra Logic points out in its 'Digital Data Storage Outlook 2018', but still the storage sector is constantly seeking innovative ways to ensure data centres have the capacity they will need.

Producers such as WD, Toshiba and Seagate are already offering 14TB capacity HDDs (with 16TB on the way) and 12TB SSDs to the enterprise market and Spectra Logic estimates a high growth rate for SSDs through to 2020 by when, it says, the disk industry will be serving a singular market, predominately large IT shops and cloud providers. "As the volume of data expands, considerable storage innovation is needed to meet capacity, performance and budgetary requirements," said Spectra Logic CEO Nathan Thompson.

This is all being addressed via innovative ways to store data using conventional media plus finding new ways to store vast amounts in a tiny space.

In one example, Microsoft's Project Natick is looking at whether it is possible to build data centres underwater. It will reduce the need to find suitable sites on land, while offering a great way to keep the centres cool. Then there is Iceland's proposed data skyscraper which, with a hollow middle, would generate a cooling air flow.

But it is the new media options that are really exciting and where we are already seeing some truly original thinking. Crystals and DNA, for example, are both being touted as future data storage solutions.

The idea of storing data on DNA is not that new, but it's certainly still in the developmental stage. The potential, though, is huge. "DNA has an information-storage density several orders of magnitude higher than any other known storage technology," says Victor Zhirnov, chief scientist of the Semiconductor Research Corporation, quoted in Wired. A single gram of DNA can hold roughly 1ZB of data and four grams can carry all the data created in a year. The challenge for the industry is to establish ways of retrieving this data from vast DNA repositories.

Elsewhere, innovators are looking at using crystals as a storage medium. "Nano-sized crystals of salt, encoded with data using light from a laser, could be the next data storage technology of choice," according to Phys Org.

What else? Holographic storage is a developing technology that uses the full depth of standard disks (as opposed to just the surface) and can potentially store data at multiple levels securely for over 50 years.

And then there are 5D glass disks; one prototype the size of a two pound coin that can hold 360TB of data and withstand extreme heat up to 190°C has already been created, and the team behind it believes data can be kept on these disks for billions of years. Hitachi has also produced a 5D glass data disk. It uses binary code and a 2mm thick, one sq inch piece of quartz glass can hold 40Mb of data.

All pioneering stuff. But let's not forget the older ways to store data. Quantum says tape is still filling a growing need in the video surveillance and media and entertainment markets. Sony has developed a magnetic cassette tape that can hold 148GB per square inch of tape. It uses a technique called sputter deposition wherein argon ions are shot at the polymer film to create a layer of fine magnetic crystals.

The bottom line is, whatever your storage needs - tape for deep archiving or HDDs and SSDs for today's Big Data requirement - Exertis Hammer can provide the solutions, as well as the insight into future market developments.
More info: