Microsoft’s Project Silica Turns Glass Into Futuristic Data Storage

Microsoft succeeded in encoding the Warner Bros’ Superman film onto a compact fragment of sturdy quartz glass measuring 75 x 75 x 2 mm. This method of storage is more secure than transferring the movie to an SSD or magnetic tape, both of which degrade over time.

Quartz glass has the potential to maintain data for up to 10,000 years without the necessity for periodic backups, whereas SSDs typically have a lifespan between 5-10 years.

Now, as we approach the end of 2023, Microsoft is set to share deeper insights into its groundbreaking Project Silica and introduce us to revolutionary data center designs that will house this data in the years to come, equipped with an automated mechanism for accessing the data-storing glass panes.

One significant benefit of encoding data on glass is its near invulnerability. Microsoft’s Project Silica employs a rapid femtosecond laser for data engraving on the glass. This laser produces what are termed voxels, the three-dimensional equivalent of pixels.

Subsequently, a digitally operated microscope interprets and translates the data. The subsequent data is placed in a repository that shelters the glass without any energy consumption. These glass layers remain unconnected to the internet and are stationed on racks.

Automated machines utilize energy within this facility, navigating both vertically and horizontally to locate the designated glass segment containing the desired data. These machines are designed to traverse the racks, extract the required data, and transport it to the decoding device.

This characteristic implies that one might not choose to archive all data types on this medium. Project Silica may not suit those looking to consistently revise or alter their data.

However, for preserving flawless replicas of specific media, such as literature, audio, and films, Project Silica is aptly equipped. For a clearer understanding, the team behind Project Silica can presently embed multiple terabytes of data onto a solitary glass slab, roughly equating to 3,500 films per glass layer.

In addition, a single glass pane can accommodate around 1.75 million tracks or the equivalent of 13 years’ worth of films. It wouldn’t be unexpected if, in foreseeable times, Project Silica becomes a solution for vast personal multimedia archives, possibly catering to avid OneDrive users ready to bear the expenses.

Yet, this remains mere conjecture. Given the recent revelations, Project Silica has made notable strides. However, it’s on the cusp of market introduction. Project Silica collaborates with the Microsoft Azure division to explore eco-friendly data storage solutions.

Concurrently, Azure AI aids in the encoding and decoding of data on the glass. An additional highlight in Project Silica’s update is the mention of Elire, a sustainability-centric venture.

This group has partnered with Project Silica to establish the Global Music Vault in Svalbard, Norway. This Global Music Vault can withstand electromagnetic disruptions and severe climatic conditions.

As Microsoft points out, even if you were to scratch, bake, or immerse this glass in boiling water, it remains intact. Anticipating the initial pricing for Project Silica storage solutions, they might lean towards the pricier side.

Entities such as Elire and Warner Bros. might be the primary beneficiaries once this storage is more accessible. However, we can foresee a potential reduction in pricing as time progresses.