While Cloud storage remains the most visible part of consumer storage across the technology ecosystem, the part requiring the most capacity remains hidden. Archiving and long-term data retention by hyperscalers and service providers has gained momentum over the past decade as much of our lives—particularly during the COVID lockdown—have taken place online.
Optical storage (think DVD and Blu-ray) was overshadowed, while tape, exotic media (like silica or DNA) and hard drives vied for dominance in the hotly contested archival space. But a newbie Folio Photonicsaims to deliver the goods faster than everyone else by taking a new twist on the existing optical technology.
The start-up, which grew out of the Center for Layered Polymeric Systems, a science and technology center funded by the National Science Foundation, is a newcomer to a crowded market, and we’ve met (virtually) with its CEO, Steve Santamaria assembled to discuss the future of this exciting technology.
I can trace the first glimpse of a 1TB optical disc back to 2007. Why did it take so long to bring a commercially viable product to market?
It turns out that commercially manufacturing 1TB discs using the traditional spin coating method while maintaining yields and margins is difficult. Folio’s breakthrough is about both the manufacturing process of coextruded films and advanced materials science. The manufacturing process allows for commercial scale and affordable cost. This allows Folio to deliver high optical capacity at a fraction of the typical optical storage cost.
Your press release mentions $5 per TB while your website mentions $3 per TB, which one is correct?
Both are right. This will be a market/business decision. Folio intends to have the lowest $/TB of any current storage media when the first product ships, but we recognize that archival data storage is a commodity and will manage our price and roadmap accordingly to offer our customers the best value our investors.
How is your optical disc different from a traditional Blu-ray? What’s the secret sauce?
Multi-layer and cost-effective manufacturing process. Conventional Blu-ray discs are three or four layers and have been for 20 years (the archival disc achieves 6 layers by having 3 layers on both sides). Our first product will be 8 layers per side, which means we’ll have a 16-layer double-sided disc. That’s ~2.7x the capacity of the current Bluray with no advances in areal density (more data per layer). The secret ingredient is materials science + extruded sheet-based manufacturing.
Many before you have tried the WORM route but had no effect (e.g. Pinnacle Micro, etc.). What makes your approach different and how did you manage to beat giants like Panasonic or Sony?
We believe that customer needs are evolving. Much of the data to be archived is “objects,” and by definition, object data must be immutable. WORM is the best way to achieve data immutability.
Their technology allows the use of both cassettes and discs. What would be the use cases for both (perhaps prosumer vs. petabyte sized archives)?
There are a number of library companies that offer robotics as well as a robust SW layer that we work with. Cassette vs. disc carousel, vs. disc tray are chosen to serve the different market use cases and determined by the library vendors.
What kind of performance are we talking about? Access time, transfer rate, write rates etc?
We’re not releasing any performance metrics at this time, but we’d like to point out that SONY ODA metrics are comparable. In particular, access time is determined by the library vendors and the drive-to-disc ratio they commercialize.
What is the goal of Horizon 3? 10 TB disc and 100 TB cartridges by 2030? Would the cost per TB stay the same or go down?
10TB discs are the goal but will be driven by the market. The manufacturing process of Folio allows us much better cost control and we are committed to providing the best value to our customers and our investors.
How much will the authors/readers cost and what kind of improvement would you see on this site? Multiple read/write heads? two-sided?
It’s too early to discuss the pricing of our drives other than that we will be competitively positioned somewhere between today’s Blu-ray drives and LTO tape drives.
Why call the company Folio Photonics? What is the photonics aspect of this?
The name Folio Photonics comes from our founder Dr. Ken Singer. “Folio” refers to the layering of sheets of paper (in many cases into a book format); Hence it is used to describe the layered film we manufacture. Next, “photonics” is the physical science and application of the production, detection, and manipulation of light (photons). By combining our innovations in materials science, manufacturing and optics, we are able to use our layered film in conjunction with photonics for this high-tech application.
Your website mentions more than 16 levels. Does that mean there might be more shifts to come?
Yes, we forecast more than 32 levels in our technology roadmap until 2030. With this in mind, our co-extrusion manufacturing process has demonstrated the ability to achieve significantly more than 32 layers. While we aim to create 32 layer films, the disc will be double sided. This allows for 32 layers on each side. 167GB x 64 tiers is more than 10.7TB. So we forecast up to 10 TB.
What areal density will the first generation discs use? What improvement in areal density do you expect in the further course?
We expect our first generation discs today to be in the standard optical areal density/layer range. Depending on the medium examined, this is in the range of 25-33GB/layer. Optical technologies have demonstrated the ability to exceed 88-167GB/layer by reducing spot size, bringing marks closer together, and improving read/write optics. We believe this will be achievable in the future as we continue to advance our technology roadmap.
https://www.techradar.com/news/100tb-cartridges-set-to-rival-tapes-hard-drives-dna-for-data-archiving-domination 100TB cartridges set to rival tapes, hard drives, DNA for data archiving domination