Project Silica – Microsoft’s indestructible Storage Solution

Project Silica

Data storage has gone a few generation of changed – from traditional celluloid tapes to magnetic HDD to CDs/DVDs/Blu-ray to now Flash Memory – even modern day hard disk opt to use flash memory instead of the old trusted magnetic discs. But all these have one common problem – they don’t last forever. Durability of data on these types of storage vary from medium to medium, but ultimately you wouldn’t expect data to last for that long in any of them. If you are somehow careful, you can expect data in any of the storage medium to last slightly past your lifetime. And that’s one scientists have been trying to find a way of storing data forever – and one such research led Microsoft to consider storing data in indestructible storage glass medium – The Project Silica Storage Solution.

“Project Silica uses ultrafast laser optics and artificial intelligence to store data in quartz glass; where a laser encodes data in glass by creating layers of three-dimensional nanoscale gratings and deformations at various depths and angles”, explained Microsoft during their Ignite 2019 keynote event. With this done, Microsoft expects the data in that silica piece of glass to last potentially forever, or at least for centuries.

Warner Bro had heard of Microsoft’s Project Silica, and approached the technology to giant to help it archive its movies and TV Shows. You see these studios normally store their movies in the traditional celluloid tapes, and as we know those tapes are prone to deterioration. They don’t like high temperatures as they can melt, and very low temperatures can deform them. Given the magnetic technique for storing data on the tapes, even when maximum care is given one should still expect data loss due to magnetic deterioration. It therefore goes without saying that Warner Bros would find immense value in Microsoft’s Project Silica.

Warner Bros therefore partnered with Microsoft for Microsoft, as a proof of concept, to store its 1976 Superman movie on the quartz glass. And Microsoft did. To demonstrate just how durable the stored data is, Microsoft subjected the glass to a variety of harsh treatments. ” Proving almost as indestructible as Superman himself, Microsoft’s hard silica glass survived being boiled, scratched, scoured, demagnetized, microwaved, baked in an oven and more with not a single instance of data loss recorded”, wrote Stephen Lambrechts for Techradar.

Project Silica just doesn’t extend the time for stored data to almost infinity, but also shrinks down space. The feature image above shows
Warner’s Brad Collar and Vicky Colf demonstrate the difference in size between huge film canisters and Project Silica’s glass-based storage for the same data. This implies studios are now going to save immensely on the cost of storing data in warehouses, as their data cannot only be stored in less environmentally controlled spaces, but even a small office space can be used to store a lot more data than a typical gigantic warehouse can store.

Microsoft’s Project Silica is indeed a huge step towards the future of data storage.


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