Published in Cloud

Data centres could have a heart of glass

by on16 October 2023

It could be made cruising, yeah

Microsoft Research Cambridge is working out a way to reduce the size of data centres by storing data on glass.

Project Silica Distinguished Engineer Ant Rowstron said that the way things are going, humanity is going to have to pave paradise and put up a data centre to store the data it is generating.

Writing in his bog said that Vole has put several terabytes of data, enough to store approximately 1.75 million songs or 13 years' worth of music, on a sheet of glass, which is retrieved by a high-speed, computer-controlled microscope from a library of glass disks storing data in three-dimensional pixels called voxels.

Magnetic storage, although prevalent, is problematic. Its limited lifespan necessitates frequent re-copying, increasing energy consumption and operational costs.

"Magnetic technology has a finite lifetime. You must keep copying it over to new generations of media. A hard disk drive might last five years. A tape, well, if you're brave, it might last ten years. But once that lifetime is up, you've got to copy it over. And that is difficult and tremendously unsustainable if you think of all that energy and resource we're using," Rowstron said.

Project Silica can store massive amounts of data in glass plates roughly the size of a drink coaster and preserve the data for thousands of years, ironically if you don’t use it as a drink coaster.

Richard Black, Research Director, Project Silica, adds, "This technology allows us to write data knowing it will remain unchanged and secure, which is a significant step forward in sustainable data storage." Project Silica aims to write data in a piece of glass and store it on a shelf until needed. Once written, the data inside the glass is impossible to change.

Project Silica uses Azure AI to decode data stored in glass, making reading and writing faster and allowing more data storage... The library is passive, with no electricity in any storage units. The complexity is within the robots that charge as they idle inside the lab, awakening when data is needed.

Initially, the laser writing process was inefficient, but after years of refinement, the team can now store several TB in a single glass plate that could last 10,000 years. For a sense of scale, each plate could store around 3,500 movies.

And most importantly, it can store data in a fraction of the space of a data centre.

Last modified on 16 October 2023
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