​Sony buys ex-Facebook exec's storage startup in push for datacentre dominance

Sony taps up Facebook's former hardware guru to help develop a new disc library systems for hyperscale datacentres.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Sony, an established player in enterprise archiving, has acquired an optical storage startup.

Sony has acquired Optical Archive Inc (OAI), a company founded last year by Frank Frankovsky, Facebook's former vice president of hardware design and supply chain optimisation.

Under Frankovsky, Facebook developed an optical storage cabinet that housed 10,000 Blu-Ray discs for its 'cold storage' or archiving requirements, offering it a cheap and safe way to store one petabyte of data - such as photos - that need to be kept for a long time but aren't accessed that often. Eventually the cabinet will scale up to handle 50 petabytes.

Sony has provided tape and optical storage media for decades, as well as robotic libraries for optical archiving. The company said it intends to use OAI's knowhow in datacentre hardware design, supply chain operations, and systems integration to develop new optical disc library systems.

While new storage companies have emerged around faster and more expensive solid-state drive technology, Sony is hoping to tap the growing market for cold storage - a sector it says is the largest and fastest growing portion of the datacentre market. That growth is likely due to purchasing associated with so-called 'hyperscale' datacentres owned by Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others.

Sony announced the acquisition on Wednesday without revealing financial details of the deal.

Another company that's believed to have opted for optical storage is Amazon Web Services, which may be using the technology for its Glacier cold storage service. According to Amazon engineer James Hamilton, the volume of cold storage data in the world is "stupendous", much of it coming from the enterprise for compliance reasons. Meanwhile, Sony and Panasonic last year also announced a product called Archive Disc, which has a 30GB capacity and will eventually handle one terabyte per disc.

Though no longer with Facebook, Frankovsky still serves as the Open Compute Project's chairman and president. Facebook's presence on the board was filled by current vice president of infrastructure, Jason Taylor.

Frankovsky told the Wall Street JournalOAI never went public about its technology but he had previously said there was an underlying goal to develop an alternative to tape for archiving. Disc was superior, he said, due to durability, cost and faster transfer speeds.

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