Panasonic's Blu-ray RAID archive

A single Blu-ray disc isn't very fast or large. So how can it be used in enterprise storage? Panasonic's answer: lash 12 together to make a fast, long-life - 50 years - robotic storage system.

Like Jason Perlow , I'm passing on CES this year - and I'm already in Las Vegas, an easy 4 hour drive from my home in the mountains of northern Arizona. But I am at Storage Visions, an excellent pre-CES conference on storage for consumers and consumer services.

I've seen several cool things that I'll be posting about the next few days. First up:

Panasonic's Blu-ray RAID archive robot
Panasonic has a nifty Blu-ray-based storage system. Imagine 12 Blu-ray discs in a striped RAID configuration. The RAID gives the Blu-ray discs speed and competitive capacity.

Specs:

  • 200MB/sec throughput
  • 1.2TB per cartridge of 12 discs
  • 108TB per archive of 90 cartridge
  • 60 second access time
  • 6 Watts standby, 100 Watts R/W
  • 6U rackmountable box

The 12 Blu-ray discs are in a cartridge about the size of a tape cartridge. The disc unloader places them into 12 different Blu-ray drives for reading and writing.

Here's a silent 1 minute video showing the unload/load process for interested hardware geeks:


The Storage Bits take
Panasonic says their archive quality Blu-ray discs are good for 50 years. I'm not convinced, but even if they're only good for 25 years that is a significant advance for an active archive. LTO tape is only good for 200 complete reads, a spec Blu-ray handily beats.

But the more important metric is long-term readability. Assuming the media is good, can you count on a machine able to read it?

With optical the answer is more likely to be yes. Optical technology is everywhere and easy to replicate. Compare that to the specialized head/media engineering of tape - typically promising compatibility over 2-3 generations - and you'll have a much more difficult time reading an LTO-5 tape in 20 years.

I've commented often on Sony's mishandling of Blu-ray over the years, but Panasonic's Blu-ray archive makes sense both technically and economically for data that needs to be readily, but not immediately, available.

Comments welcome. I never thought I'd like an optical RAID, but Panasonic surprised me.