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Optical storage: destined for oblivion?
Reports of its demise may be premature
Cries such as "tape is dead" and "optical has no future" have been heard for some time now - and not only from the mouths of hard-disk vendors, writes Bloor Research analyst Tony Lock. This begs the question of whether non-disk based storage technologies have any long-term prospects.
A little thought, however, quickly reveals that this question has a very simple answer, and that answer is a resounding "Yes". Almost every organisation has the requirement to store certain information in a way that allows it to be recovered at a later date with confidence that it is in precisely the format it had when it was written.
In some scenarios, especially in certain highly-regulated industries, disk-based archiving solutions such as those supplied by EMC and IBM may be appropriate. Such solutions are, however, relatively expensive and are out of the reach of many potential users. It is to this customer base that "write once, read many" (worm) optical solutions provide a reliable, and affordable solution. One supplier with a wide range of offerings in this space is Plasmon. The company supplies DVD, 5.25" Optical and Tape Library solutions to its customers across the US, UK and Europe. Its latest generation of Ultra Dense Optical (UDO) permanent archival solutions differ from its traditional offerings in one major respect: the company no longer assembles its solutions from components sourced from other suppliers but produces its drives and media itself.
UDO is based on ultra density, blue laser technology and succeeds Magneto Optical (MO) storage. UDO is available in both rewritable and true Write Once media formats. Current UDO drives are available in 30 Gb drives and the technology has a road map scaling to 120 Gb with drives boasting backwards compatibility.
Plasmon offers its G-series archiving solutions that support both UDO and MO configurations. In terms of capacity the libraries range from 24 to 638 slots that deliver anywhere between 720 Gb to nearly 20 Tb using the 30 Gb UDO media. These high performance platforms boast all of the features expected of highly available systems including hot swap drives and redundant power supplies.
Whilst UDO based archival solutions are usually considerably less expensive than disk based solutions, Plasmon also supplies its 'D Series' DVD libraries to meet even more cost sensitive requirements.
Plasmon, along with others in the industry, believes that the recent decline in sales in optical libraries has bottomed out and feels that increasing regulation and compliance pressures will now force sales to grow. Steve Tongish stated, "People are moving back to optical from DVD."
Indeed Plasmon is very happy that in one of its key markets, the medical imaging and document management sector, it has acquired both Siemens Medical and GE Medical as major solution partners. With ISVs building solution bundles for many other archival markets, including the ever growing Mail sector, it appears that optical storage will be around for some time in organisations of all sizes. Will disk rule everything, everywhere? It doesn't look likely anytime soon.