Fundamentals and Futures of Long Term Storage Media

Library Content Type:
Publish Date: 
Monday, October 10, 2011
Event Name: 

Capacities of media today are reported as numbers to be simply compared to other numbers. The amazement of what the numbers represent is missing or no perhaps longer necessary because the audiences are different now. Audiences of the 80s who could barely comprehend a gigabyte was when the first 12”optical disk was introduced, did understand that it was the equivalent of 4 four-drawer file cabinets of paper. To help understand a terabyte, I explained that the printed 500B ASCII pages would stretch around the earth 11.5 times – and I included the fact it would take 42,500 trees to generate the paper. When NASA announced they wanted to eventually capture 2.5TB per day, it was unheard of. It was so difficult to comprehend the larger numbers we had to explain them in physical terms. It was in the early 90s when the guess was made that it would take 10.5TB to hold the entire Library of Congress, I laughed at thinking the LOC could ever be a term of measurement. Who today realizes that we can store that capacity on just over two 5TB tapes currently available? Audiences may be aware that Sony has printed its last audio compact disc, but do they know why it was invented at the size and capacity it was and how it was introduced 30 years ago by Dr. Toshi Doi? Or why it held 74 min and 44 seconds of recorded music? Paper was the enemy of the 80’s just like data is the challenge of today. At the time the US Navy replaced operational manuals with CDs, the average aircraft carrier was able to shed 37 tons of paper. According to Admiral Tuttle, the paper weighed just 3 tons less than the planes they carried. The age-old question is even more timely today: Do the storage requirements drive the state of the art or does the state of the art drive requirements? Which is most important? Access time or data reliability? Legality restraints or cost objectives? Ten years ago there were future technologies that do not exist today. It is interesting to see which ones survived and are predicted to take us into the future to meet expanding demands driven by social media/technology and long-term data retention requirements. In this section I will touch on why some technologies did not make it into the current solution offering. What happened to the predictions from a decade ago and how safe are the predictions we see being made today? As a final trivia question – which technology improved by 25,000 times in 20 years? Storage is still amazing! Finally, when we look over the horizon at the future of the remaining technologies, what are the roadblocks to their development? What are the physical, chemical or practical limitations? Are there new candidates that are capturing the imagination of the engineers and developers that have yet to come to light? Will leapfrog solutions take us into the long-term data preservation capability we need to have available?

Learning Objectives

The genesis of past storage technologies. The beginning point often defines the road map to the future.
Current and near term technologies with long term capabilities
Horizon Technologies - what happened to the predicted solutions and which ones are most promising today.