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Folio Photonics sees optical disk as alternative for archive

Folio Photonics has increased the layers of optical disk, lowering the cost and increasing the capacity while delivering higher performance than LTO tapes.

Folio Photonics is taking optical disk storage past its four-layer sticking point, adding a potential archive storage media to the market with capacity and costs closer to tape.

Folio, a data storage startup founded in 2012, said it has a new disk system that doubles the layers on each side of its optical disks, bringing the total layers to 16 and capacity to 1 TB per disk -- up from Blu-Ray's 50 GB.

There is a need for a second tier of [long-term] storage. Tape has been filling that need for years, but optical disk has been out there, just stagnated.
Vinny ChoinskiAnalyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

"There is a need for a second tier of [long-term] storage," said Vinny Choinski, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, a division of TechTarget. "Tape has been filling that need for years, but optical disk has been out there, just stagnated."

The Folio Photonics Immutable Active Archive System, which is slated for a 2024 release, will increase disk capacity and random-access capabilities, making it an archive option that can compete more closely with LTO tape, Choinski said.

Breaking barriers in the same form factor

Highlighting optical disk storage is often met with pushback, according to Steven Santamaria, CEO of Folio Photonics, which is headquartered in Solon, Ohio. Things like Blu-ray technology never saw widescale adoption in the enterprise as it struggled with higher capacities, which meant optical disks weren't competitive with other storage media like spinning disks, flash or tape, he said.

Through development of a new fluorescent film, Folio's new disk system could change that, bringing a higher capacity and lower price to optical disks for the first time.

When it's released, Immutable Active Archive disks will be available in either a 500 GB or 1 TB offering, Santamaria said. Because an optical disk cartridge holds 10 disks, customers will be able to achieve 10 TB in roughly the same form factor as an LTO tape, Santamaria said. The company is planning on doubling capacity every two years, so by 2030, customers could achieve a 100 TB in the same form factor, he said.

Santamaria said the target price is under $5 per terabyte, to compete with LTO. Folio is aiming to keep costs flat on the manufacturing side, meaning the company could go from an eight-layer film per side to a 16-layer film per side at the same price point.

Folio Photonics Immutable Active Archive System
Folio Photonics Immutable Active Archive System disks now have 16 layers for denser storage.

Racing against competition

Folio's technology is different than Blu-ray, using a different polymer material on the same disk pack, according to Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting.

Hyperscalers are the main customers interested in this type of product, and they are looking at $1 per terabyte or less for archive media, Staimer said. He added that Folio is already working on the next generation to eventually get to $1 per terabyte.

A potential downside is that a different archive media will also require different hardware and require rack space in the data center, according to Staimer.

While the capacity is currently lower than tape, Santamaria claims faster random speeds with a sub-30-second time to first byte and less than 10 seconds beyond that. He did say that bandwidth would be dependent on the hardware used to read it, but internal testing has shown speeds of 365 MBps.

But costs, capacity and performance may not be the only criteria companies need to consider, according to Choinski. For instance, optical disks have a shelf life of more than 100 years, compared with LTO's 30.

"There's room and space for different types of storage media," he said.

Adam Armstrong is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering file and block storage hardware and private clouds. He previously worked at StorageReview.com.

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