Blu-ray archiving for the enterprise

Blu-ray archiving for the enterprise

Summary: Now that Facebook and - I believe - Amazon's Glacier are using Blu-ray for long-term archival storage, perhaps your company should too. Here's some options

TOPICS: Storage, Hardware, Legal

As I wrote yesterday, it appears that Amazon's mysterious Glacier service uses optical disks rather than hard drives. Panasonic has been slogging away for years to make the high-capacity optical a practical archive medium. And last month Panasonic and Sony jointly announced Archive Disc (AD), a 300GB optical disk, with plans to take it to a 1TB capacity.


With optical disk adoption by major cloud players, who add petabytes of capacity each day, this is not a fantasy. But make no mistake: this isn't for home users.  

AD uses a Blu-ray laser but the similarities stop there. The discs are dual-sided with 3 layers each side. The track pitch is much tighter - 225µm vs 320µm for Blu-ray discs - as is the data bit length - 79.5nm vs 150nm - achieving 300GB on a single disc.

Laser diodes are cheap but precision mechanics aren't, so this won't be a home device any time soon. Figure that they plan to make money on the media selling huge volumes to a few buyers.

Enterprise users don't have to wait for the coming AD to start using optical libraries though. They already exist. 

Companies such as Hie Electronics and DISC offer medium-sized - up to about 70TB - Blu-ray archives that have some advantages over long-term object storage on disks. These include:

  • Legal. As a write-once medium, Blu-ray discs can meet legal requirements for archived data.
  • Long media life. Disks and tapes are usually replaced on 5 year intervals, where Blu-ray archive discs claim a 50 year life, eliminating data migrations.
  • Blu-ray drives are cheap, enabling equipment upgrades and replacements at much lower cost than tape drives.

The Storage Bits take
These small optical libraries aren't cheap, but they are much faster than Glacier's 3-5 hour response time. Nor is the legal status of Glacier archives clear.

But as optical technology continues to advance - as it appears certain to do with Panasonic's support and major cloud buyers - optical's advantages over tape will grow. In the era of 6TB hard drives we tend to forget that many businesses don't need petabytes of archive capacity.

If 50TB of local archive capacity works for you today, with the promise of much higher capacities coming soon, then optical may be your solution.

Comments welcome, as always. I'd like to hear from people who maintain archives today. What's working for you now and what do you need for the future?

Topics: Storage, Hardware, Legal

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  • make your solution it includes redundancy

    Because stuff happens... once had a disk shatter into pieces while in the drive being read. Apparently the laser or control circuitry malfunctioned and catastrophically destroyed the disk.

    and jukeboxes can have problems too.
  • Pricing will determine success.

    The most expense storage medium are now SSD and currently they sell roughly at $0.50 per Gig. How much will the machine cost? How much will each disk cost?

    I will venture a wild guess.

    If Panasonic and SONY start with a price of $$200 for the drive and $30 for each 300 Gig disk, I think they may have a winner.
    • You may be an optimist

      Currently BDXL discs retail for about $45 each. I suspect the double sided AD will be 2 triple layer discs laminated together. But if you bought them by the container load in plain brown wrappers I'm sure you'd save big.

      The writers will be more expensive than the readers, but it is the robotics that is most costly.

      R Harris
  • Robin - check with Thomson Reuters

    This sounds like something their WestLaw service either would already be using or they might be looking into. Once they make court decisions and state and federal statutes available, those don't change. Panasonic and Sony definitely are aware of WestLaw's storage needs.
  • A little off-topic but re small business..

    This isn't directly on topic (massive storage requirements) but might help some small businesses. For our small business we initially use hard drive in docks that allow swappability for initial (daily and cumulative) backups and we recently supplemented this with (cheap) 25GB Blueray archival discs for archival materials both for data backups and backups of our (multiple) 48GB backup files. We use an older (there are newer programs, but we haven't found better) disk cataloging program called SuperCat to maintain catalogs of all discs so we can immediately find a particular file (my department is Accounting, which generates a tremendous amount of PDFs). We always burn bluerays in pairs, one of which we take offsite. This is uber-cheap and kind of low-tech (compared to, say, disk-arrays) but actually works well (I started doing this because our network admin is a nepotism hire and clueless). Sorry if it is off-topic a bit but it's a very useful way to move data off local drives, yet still keep it (relatively) quickly available. Again, NOT for massive storage requirements (each cpu at our office only has 2TBs of program/data info).
  • Please elaborate: legal status of Glacier archives

    I am using Glacier through Zoolz.
    "Nor is the legal status of Glacier archives clear."
    Please elaborate
  • Chain of custody

    I'm not a lawyer - thank god - but in general if you are going to submit documents in response to a order of production, you need to be able to assure the judge that the documents are original and unaltered. If not, he can hurt you bad - even worse than if he thinks you withheld documents.

    Write-once media are excellent for this purpose.

    R Harris
    • They are a start...

      You still have to be able to prove that the disk hasn't been substituted.

      The problem with the cloud for backup is that you have no chain of custody.
  • Archival Disc

    I have been trying to find a current review of the best Blu-Ray disks to use for Archiving my home office files, and Family pictures and files. I have not found a good current review. Can anyone point to some definitive studies or reviews that can be trusted? Thanks
  • Blue Ray Archive

    I have been following the Blue Ray Optical archive, in the past one year for datacenter needs as long term archive solution. Recently i come across that new archive solution luanch by new provider HLDS [ seems strong in Storage Industry ( Hitachi-LG Data Storage ) ] luanch on 3April with very competitive feature with 50TB of raw capacity, and with nine libraries with 450TB. .
    Market arhioveing solution surely with good price many have oppurtunity move towards Blue Ray archive as very promising too with huge BIG DATA growth .
  • What about optical tape

    I always figured a roll of optical tape would be optimum for long term archival. You get the immense capacity of tape, with the durability and reliability of optical storage.