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Storage: Long-Term Low-Cost COLD Storage Solutions

By Dick Weisinger

Recently at the Open Compute Summit, Facebook VP of Engineering, Jay Parikh described how Facebook has rigged together a system based on 10,000 Blu-ray discs that fit into a single cabinet, capable of storing 1 petabyte of data.  Facebook plans to improve on this first attempt and be able to reach 5 petabytes per cabinet.  Compared to existing hard disk solutions, Parikh says that the Blu-ray solution will be 50 percent cheaper and use 80 percent less energy.

The Facebook Blu-Ray prototype is capable of storing 10,000 discs and 1 petabyte of data in a single cabinet, with plans to scale it to 5 petabytes per cabinet. Blu-ray storage would save the company 50 percent in costs and 80 percent in energy usage over its existing hard-disk-based cold storage methods, Parikh said, and will provide 50 years worth of durability for data stored on the discs.

Sony, original creator of Blu-Ray technology, and Panasonic have also recently teamed up to address the need for finding a robust long-term low-cost solution for archiving content.  They’ve recently announced that they would jointly produce a 300 GB optical disc for long-term archival.  The product family is to be named “Archive Disc” and should become available in 2015.  The target is to create Blu-Ray optical discs with a 1 TB capacity and to then package them into a disc cartridge containing 12 discs.

Not everyone is buying into the Facebook strategy.  Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, commented that “some of what Facebook was doing was laying out a challenge to storage vendors.  I think what they were really communicating was that there is a need for low cost reliable storage.”

Bruce Kornfeld, Interim CMO at Spectra Logic, questions the logic of using Blu-Ray for commercial purposes.  Kornfeld said that “over the last 20 years the commercial data storage industry has attempted to commercialize multiple consumer technologies including CD ROM, CD Writeable, DVD writeable, 4mm Digital Audio Tape, 8mm video tape, and VHS video tape – with mixed results.  Consumer technologies offer high-volume and typically low cost storage media. The ‘low cost’ strengths of these technologies have also led to their downfall as they lack the device robustness and data reliability required by commercial data storage applications. In addition, consumer grade drives and media just don’t last very long. Blu-ray disc drive load mechanisms are probably good to a few thousand load/unload cycles. This compares with an LTO tape drive that is rated to 250,000 load/unload cycles. As you can see – the difference in durability is substantial!”

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