DVD-like optical disc could store 1.6 petabits (or 200 terabytes) on 100 layers

Daniel Sims

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Forward-looking: As consumers increasingly turn toward digital distribution and data center operators try various storage methods, optical discs haven't stopped evolving. A recently published paper explains how manufacturers could make DVD-like discs that hold the equivalent of hundreds or thousands of Blu-rays.

Researchers at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology have developed an optical disc with a capacity of over a petabit of data, equivalent to well over 100 terabytes. Although the technology is primarily proposed for enterprise use, it could potentially become accessible to consumers after overcoming significant obstacles.

The scientists were able to significantly increase the capacity of an optical disc by implementing a 3D planar recording architecture. The technology uses a highly transparent, uniform photoresist film doped with aggregation-induced emission dye and stimulated by femtosecond lasers.

Related reading: Anatomy of a Storage Drive: Optical Drives

This allows hundreds of layers to be packed one micrometer apart on a disc with the same thickness as a DVD or Blu-ray. The most advanced Blu-ray discs support up to four layers, typically carrying around 100 gigabytes of data. By comparison, the researchers claim that their new format can record 100 layers on both sides of the disc for a capacity totaling 1.6 petabits, or around 200 terabytes.

Stacking many petabit discs together could reduce exabit data centers to a fraction of their current typical size. Consolidating servers would also drastically lower heat and energy consumption. Additionally, utilizing extreme-capacity optical discs simplifies data migration and minimizes the need for it. Another potential advantage is longevity – the researchers claim the petabit discs can last 50 to 100 years.

Although the new medium could be made compatible with current optical disc technology, the researchers haven't yet developed a fast, affordable drive for it. If one emerges, the new discs could store data comparable to dozens of hard drives, 2,000 PlayStation 5 game discs, or a similar number of 4K Blu-ray discs.

Thinking beyond media playback, the developers suggest that petabit discs could allow individuals or families to own data centers, storing all of their important information on one drive at home instead of multiple devices and cloud servers.

Other novel methods of mass storage are also under investigation. In 2021, researchers from the University of Southampton proposed a "5D" method of stowing data on glass discs. Using an energy-efficient laser, the technology could pack 500TB onto a DVD-sized disc, but improvements in read and write speed are necessary.

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Great, throw a few in an old spinner HDD case and there goes your data issues for a few years.

I don’t look forward to discs like DVDs making a comeback.
 
That would be amazing, but this would be killed off by the greedy companies behind the technology in never making it affordable enough to be mainstream.
 
I guess you would prefer volatile drives or paying your entire life for cloud subscriptions.

I say bring back the discs.

Thanks not what I said. If you read it again I was not against the tech but the format it was used in.

No I don’t want flimsy disks holding valuable data that get scratched etc.

And yes separately I’ve found magnetic HDD’s far superior to DVD media for multiple writes. But that is not what I wrote.
 
Thanks not what I said. If you read it again I was not against the tech but the format it was used in.

No I don’t want flimsy disks holding valuable data that get scratched etc.

And yes separately I’ve found magnetic HDD’s far superior to DVD media for multiple writes. But that is not what I wrote.
I agree that no one would like flimsy discs that get scratched..... humankind have gone to the moon and back in one piece, I'm sure we can overcome those issues on discs.
 
It needs to be very reliable, not to posses such fragility that could erase entire tv shows with one scratch if I choose it for backup. What is that current phone screen glass they advert as the strongest?
These disks need something like that or better. That is too much data to allow it to vanish
with a slight scratch.
 
Great, throw a few in an old spinner HDD case and there goes your data issues for a few years.

I don’t look forward to discs like DVDs making a comeback.
To someone who suffers with OTA TV, that's almost blasphemy.

There's nothing like binge watching a favorite TV series, without having to suffer through commercials for ambulance chasing lawyers, casinos, and the newest $2,000.00 a month drugs, with lists of adverse side effects as long as your arm.

DVD forever. (y) (Y)
 
The technology uses a highly transparent, uniform photoresist film doped with aggregation-induced emission dye and stimulated by femtosecond lasers.

That's all it takes? I think I got that stuff in my shed out back.....

Joking aside. Options are always good. What might not be the best idea (massive storage on a single DVD disc) could always lead to more ideas or better implementations.

I'm still a fan of physical media. I'm currently going through and backing up my CDs (I haven't purchased a new CD for probably the past 20 years or more) to my computer and then ripping them on new writeable discs. Still got a CD player in my car that I use many days out of the week when there is junk playing on the radio.

I hate that 90% of movies/shows are going right to streaming. You pay for the streaming service and then on top of that you might have to pay extra to "own" (I mean, borrow) movies or shows and then when you want to watch them you're streaming data. No thanks. I like the physical media so I can watch it when I want and not have to worry about a streaming service dropping it or losing rights to distribute it. I make a digital backup of all my movies/shows and if that ever fails me I've got the actual physical media to play.
 
We used to say "You can do anything in the lab." I'm concerned this is another headline breakthrough that will never leave the lab.

I would just love to be wrong on this. Give me a durable, physical, data backup system that is fast enough to be useful, and cheap enough for home use!
 
To someone who suffers with OTA TV, that's almost blasphemy.

There's nothing like binge watching a favorite TV series, without having to suffer through commercials for ambulance chasing lawyers, casinos, and the newest $2,000.00 a month drugs, with lists of adverse side effects as long as your arm.

DVD forever. (y) (Y)
That's why you DVR the tv then have it remove commercials or do it manually later, no more terrible commercials and political ads. I have been collecting a good amount of tv shows on dvd over the last few years though, is very convenient once they are on my plex server.
 
Considering the survival date of existing multilayer discs and the increased difficulty to read them (meaning there is more to potentially go wrong), the issues with storage and longevity, the data rate...considering tapes are already at about 20TB per tape (lto-9) for the latest generation, and do around 400mb/s max, have much better lingevity, already exist, are a proven product means that I highly doubt enterprise would ever pick this up, especially considering how the existing attempts by optical disc manufacturers to get into that space (m-disc and so on), have failed, having so much data on one failure mode (and a fairly easy failure mode at that with minor scratches probably meaning whole swathes of data are dead) would probably be not seen as good as well, quite pointless
 
With some current trend of "cloud" streaming and the size of some games, DVD-like backups are coming back as a safeguard of data. Because in "cloud" you don't really own a show or a film or even a game, they are provided as needed, and can be removed at anytime.
I think that Physical Media backups will become a thing again...
1TB DVD-Disc-alike would be interesting and more manageble than 1PB.
 
Imagine burning this at max speed and then encountering read errors and having to burn the data again.

Imagine burning data, having a readable disc and, 6 months down the line, having issues with accessing the data because of a scratch. 200 TB of data down the drain.

Whoever thought this was of any use must've been either smoking something or trying to prove a concept. That much data on an optical disc exposed to dust and scratches is a solution looking for a problem.

Did I mention physical size? Right, a flash drive should be smaller with greater capacity. Hell, even an M.2 drive+enclosure could be more compact, faster and more reliable.
I don't know about tape storage density, but they're probably more reliable than optical discs as well.
 
Imagine burning this at max speed and then encountering read errors and having to burn the data again.

Imagine burning data, having a readable disc and, 6 months down the line, having issues with accessing the data because of a scratch. 200 TB of data down the drain.

Whoever thought this was of any use must've been either smoking something or trying to prove a concept. That much data on an optical disc exposed to dust and scratches is a solution looking for a problem.

Did I mention physical size? Right, a flash drive should be smaller with greater capacity. Hell, even an M.2 drive+enclosure could be more compact, faster and more reliable.
I don't know about tape storage density, but they're probably more reliable than optical discs as well.
Flash memory isnt even remotely comparable for long term data backups.
That's why you DVR the tv then have it remove commercials or do it manually later, no more terrible commercials and political ads. I have been collecting a good amount of tv shows on dvd over the last few years though, is very convenient once they are on my plex server.
Yeah but that's work, also gross. Even DVDs offer far better visual and audio quality then an OTA broadcast, to say nothing of blu rays.....
 
Whoever thought this was of any use must've been either smoking something ... id I mention physical size? Right, a flash drive should be smaller with greater capacity
Eh? The largest flash drives are 1TB -- 200TB worth would be easily 100X the volume of one of these disks. Even if you meant the more compact NVME SSDs, it would still require 50 4TB units -- still much more volume.

And let's not forget a multitude of other problems. 50 4TB NVME drives would cost a minimum of $50K, whereas one of these discs can probably be produced in bulk for a dollar or two. The data retention period of an unpowered consumer SSD is on the order of one year only (enterprise level drives, paradoxically, are even lower). And if stored over temperatures of 40F+, that period can drop to a few weeks.

Finally, SSDs (and flash drives) have a limited number of mating cycles, whereas a disc can, with care, be effectively inserted and removed an unlimited number of times. And SSDs are susceptible to static electricity, water damage, and a host of other problems of which discs are totally unaffected by.

Edit: corrected "under 40F" to "over 40F"
 
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Flash memory isnt even remotely comparable for long term data backups.
Yeah but that's work, also gross. Even DVDs offer far better visual and audio quality then an OTA broadcast, to say nothing of blu rays.....
My DVDs can't touch my 1080i feeds from CBS and NBC and my ABC and Fox feeds are a decent 720p. My plex server does all the commercial removal for me, I don't do any of it anymore. If I really like a movie I tend to grab the blueray at some point and rip it to my plex server, definitely a nice boost in visuals.
 
Imagine burning this at max speed and then encountering read errors and having to burn the data again.

Imagine burning data, having a readable disc and, 6 months down the line, having issues with accessing the data because of a scratch. 200 TB of data down the drain.

Whoever thought this was of any use must've been either smoking something or trying to prove a concept. That much data on an optical disc exposed to dust and scratches is a solution looking for a problem.

Did I mention physical size? Right, a flash drive should be smaller with greater capacity. Hell, even an M.2 drive+enclosure could be more compact, faster and more reliable.
I don't know about tape storage density, but they're probably more reliable than optical discs as well.
I've got CDs that are pushing 25+ years (damn I'm getting old) and they still work. They've even spent a majority of their life span in a large CD book stuck under the seat of my various vehicles in MN weather (extreme cold and heat). The discs have been used over and over again, in and out of the book many, many times so there is light scratching on most of the discs from use.

I've got old physical PC games that still work - such as Lords of the Realms II (had it since 1996). Played it a bit a few months back, even.

Take good care of your stuff and it'll last. I've even got a copy of Thief: Dark Project that is scratched to hell (can thank my younger brother for that, but that's a different story) and it still works to this day. Got the game running of the CD a handful of months ago without issues.

I agree that I wouldn't want large amounts of data on single disc because of possible failure, but if you're only making one copy of that data then perhaps the failure isn't the medium more so than the person handling the data.

My Plex server I have the shows/movies on SSDs. I've got 3 spin drives that house backups of all the data. If the data wasn't backed up and it went kaput on me, I'd have no one but myself to blame. I don't want to go through all the work again to digitize my movies so that's why I have multiple backups of it all.
 
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