Weather cloud storage remains the most visible part of consumer storage in the entire tech ecosystem, the part that requires the most capacity remains hidden. Archiving and long-term data storage by hyperscalers and service providers has gained traction over the past decade as more of our lives, especially during the COVID lockdown, have been spent online.
Optical storage (think DVD and Blu-ray) has been in the shadows, as tape, exotic media (such as silica or DNA), and hard drives vie for supremacy in the very large archive space. disputed. However, a newcomer Photonic Folioaims to deliver products faster than everyone else by putting a new spin on existing optical technology.
The new company, spun off from the Center for Layered Polymer Systems, a Science and Technology Center funded by the National Science Foundation, is a newcomer in a crowded market and we’ve sat down (virtually) with its CEO, Steve Santamaria, to discuss the future of this exciting technology.
I can trace the first glimpse of a 1TB optical drive back to 2007. Why did it take so long to get a commercially viable product?
It turns out that commercial manufacturing of 1TB drives using the traditional spin coating method is difficult to do while maintaining yields and margins. The Folio breakthrough has as much to do with the coextruded film manufacturing process as it does with advanced materials science. The manufacturing process allows commercial scale and affordable costs. This allows Folio to deliver high optical capacity at a fraction of typical optical storage costs.
Your press release mentions $5 per TB while your site mentions $3 per TB, which one is correct?
They are both right. This will be a business/market decision. Folio intends to have the lowest $/TB of any current storage media when we first ship, but we recognize that data file storage is a commodity and will manage our pricing and roadmap accordingly to deliver the best value. value to our clients and our investors.
How is your optical disc different from a traditional blu-ray disc? What is the secret sauce?
Low-cost, multi-layer manufacturing process. Traditional Bluray 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 ply per side, which means we will have a 16 ply double sided disc. That’s ~2.7 times the capacity of current Blu-ray without advances in areal density (more data per layer). The secret ingredient is Material Science + extruded film-based manufacturing.
Many before have tried the WORM route but had no impact (eg 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 that is archived is “Objects” and by definition Object data must be immutable. WORM is the best way to achieve data immutability.
Its technology allows the use of both cartridges and discs. What would be the use cases for either (perhaps prosumer vs petabyte sized files)?
There are a number of library companies that offer robotics as well as a strong SW layer that we are working with. Carousel vs. disk carousel vs. disk tray will be chosen to serve the various use cases in the market and determined by library vendors.
What kind of performance are we talking about? Access time, transfer rate, write rates, etc.?
At this time, we are not disclosing performance metrics, but feel comfortable pointing to SONY’s AOD metrics as comparable. Access time in particular will be determined by library vendors and the drive-to-disk ratio they sell.
What is the goal of Horizon 3? 10TB disk and 100TB cartridges by 2030? Would the cost per TB stay the same or go down?
10TB drives are the target, but will be determined by the market. The Folio manufacturing process allows us greater cost control and we are committed to providing the best value to our customers and investors.
How much will the writers/readers cost and what kind of improvement would you see on that side? Multiple read/write heads? The double-sided ones?
It’s still too early to discuss the price of our drives, except that we’ll be competitively positioned somewhere between today’s Blu Ray drives and LTO tape drives.
Why call the company Folio Photonics? What is the photon aspect of this?
The name Folio Photonics comes from our founder, Dr. Ken Singer. “Folio” refers to layers of sheets of paper (in a book format in many cases); therefore, it is used to describe the layered film that we make. Next, “Photonics” is the physical science and application of the generation, 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 site mentions more than 16 layers. Does that mean more layers are possibly to come?
Yes, we project more than 32 layers by 2030 in our technology roadmap. With that said, our co-extrusion manufacturing process has demonstrated the ability to achieve significantly more than 32 layers. While our goal is to create 32-layer movies, the disc will be two-sided. This will allow 32 layers on each side. 167 GB x 64 layers is more than 10.7 TB. So we project up to 10TB.
What areal density will the first generation disks use? What kind of areal density improvement do you hope to achieve later?
We project that our first generation discs will be in the current standard optical area layer/density range. Which is in the range of 25-33GB/Layer depending on the media examined. Optical technologies have demonstrated the ability to achieve greater than 88-167 GB/layer by reducing dot size, moving marks closer together, and improving read/write optics. We believe this can be achieved in the future as we continue on our technology roadmap.