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The first Petabyte hard drive will be glass

Microsoft managed to store the 1978 movie "Superman" in a piece of glass

Do you remember when you started hearing more about Terabytes as a unit of measurement? A few years ago it seemed, at least to the average user, an astronomical capacity for everyday file storage. After a short time, he turned to the base unit to think about the digital storage of backups, large multimedia content and the base storage of personal computers, servers, video game consoles and security equipment, among others.

We will soon experience a similar transition. As many technologies advance, they begin to generate and consume more data. In this eventual scenario, a storage unit will appear that, unlike traditional magnetic hard drives, uses an optical technology, similar to that of CDs or DVDs, operating on glass. It will be the first 1000 Terabyte hard drive, a figure that is abbreviated as a Petabyte.

Taking the example of large multimedia files again, the expected mass adoption of 8K as a resolution for videos would imply a higher consumption of space. Leaving compression techniques aside, making the leap to this standard would imply doubling or amplifying the size of the files involved in even greater measures, compared to 4K resolutions or lower.

With antecedents like the one just mentioned, we can understand that these transitions are an obligatory step in the evolutionary path of the technologies that surround us. In this context, the well-known manufacturer of hard drives, Seagate, announced that they are working on their first hard drive of a Petabyte capacity, based on optical technology that works on glass.

Being groundbreaking news in the area, Seagate’s work was featured in a scientific journal article by IEEE Explore. In the publication, Seagate Chief Technology Officer John Morris noted that the biggest challenge currently facing during the development of this technology is defining reasonable speeds for reading and writing data.

This progress is still in a preliminary phase. Without going too far, at the moment Seagate optical hard drives only have the capacity to be filled once, remaining in read-only mode, similar to a classic CD-R.

The Californian hard drive manufacturer is not alone in the race, it should be mentioned. Similar paths are being followed by its commercial rivals, such as Toshiba, Western Digital and Samsung.

Although the announcement draws attention to ground this storage system to a stage closer to common users, the technology itself we had already been able to know beforehand from Microsoft, through its Silica project, through which they achieved store 75.6 Terabytes of data in a 7.5 square centimeter, 2 centimeter thick piece of silicate (the one depicted in the header image of this article).

Thanks to the tests exhibited by those of Redmond, it seeks to demonstrate that glass storage units are more resistant than the supports currently used in a massive way, making them more durable over time. In fact, in a demonstration they proved that one of these crystals kept its data intact, despite being immersed in a kettle.

These are recent advances. This technology is still in its infancy, but given the projections for future generation and consumption of data, the transition to optical glass hard drives will only come about. It is a matter of time.

In any case, to calm the spirits and illusions a bit, it is estimated that this process can be slow. For example, to use this server storage technology, an Internet connection would be required at the height of such a volume of data, which is not yet possible today.

When more concrete news is known, we will know about storage capacities, definitive speeds, prices and by the way, we will see if Seagate manages to win this race in which it currently has the advantage.

Header photo (referential): Microsoft.