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A Revolutionary Cold Storage Solution for the Data Era

Glass-ceramic storage solution offers virtually unlimited media lifespan for affordable long-term data retention that drives scientific and medical research discoveries.

We are generating more data every day than ever before. By 2025, it's estimated that 463 exabytes of data will be created each day globally – that's the equivalent of 212,765,957 DVDs. Much of this data is "cold data"; rarely accessed after being stored, yet still needing to be retained for the long term. Managing cold data is becoming a rising challenge as the world's data generation grows exponentially. 

Traditional storage media like magnetic tape and hard disk drives struggle to provide the longevity, capacity, accessibility, and affordability needed for sustainable cold data storage. But one startup has developed an innovative solution that could be the answer. 

The 53rd IT Press Tour met with Cerabyte, a Germany-based startup founded in 2021, has created a nanotechnology storage solution designed specifically for retaining cold data indefinitely. The system uses durable glass-ceramic media that can withstand extreme temperatures, UV radiation, and other environmental hazards. Data is written via near-microscopic laser etching, allowing massive amounts of data to be encoded in a very small space.

The Promise of Virtually "Unlimited Lifespan"

Unlike magnetic-based storage media, Cerabyte's glass-ceramic disks do not degrade over time. The company promises a "virtually unlimited lifespan," with durability spanning thousands of years. This makes it ideal for cold data that needs to be retained but is rarely accessed once stored.

Cerabyte's CEO, Christian Pflaum, stated that their goal is to "store data forever." While traditional storage systems require data to be copied to new disks every few years before the old ones fail, Cerabyte's disks have no shelf life. This provides substantial cost savings over decades of storage.

Leveraging Existing Manufacturing for Scalability  

A key innovation that allows Cerabyte to scale is its use of existing manufacturing pipelines. The glass layers use the same Gorilla Glass that is mass-produced for billions of smartphone displays each year. By tapping into existing infrastructure, Cerabyte avoids the immense upfront investments often needed for new technologies.

The prototype Cerabyte demo unit packs one petabyte per rack. However, the company has already validated its roadmap to achieve storage densities comparable to leading disk and tape solutions within a few years. Eventually, capacities up to one exabyte per rack may be possible by incorporating semiconductor fab techniques to scale the laser etching process nanometer by nanometer.

Interest Growing From Hyperscalers 

Hyperscale data centers have already expressed notable interest, according to Cerabyte. Increasing storage densities while reducing costs is hugely impactful for these massive facilities accumulating cold data. Cerabyte promises over 75% cost savings per terabyte compared to HDDs and 50% compared to tape, with practically zero ongoing electricity costs for data retention.

Pflaum stated that all leading hyperscalers are aware of Cerabyte's solution. Validation deals are already pending, with announcements expected over the next few months.

Meeting the Storage Needs of Science and Medicine

For scientific institutions and medical centers generating massive volumes of research data, Cerabyte offers solutions to two critical storage needs — extreme longevity and accessibility.

Data from areas like genomics, physics simulations, and space exploration require durable cold storage for 50-100 years. As analytic and computing capabilities improve over time, researchers also want the ability to revisit old datasets. However, the largest scientific organizations say today's tape and optical disk systems restrict them to only keeping 5-10% of data indefinitely due to cost constraints.

Cerabyte provides virtually unlimited media lifespan at an equivalent or lower storage dollar per terabyte. This allows full datasets to remain accessible for future analysis instead of selective subset retention.

In medical fields like imaging and diagnostics, patient record storage minimums range from 10-30 years, depending on jurisdiction. Rapid retrieval is also critical. Cerabyte's storage densities could potentially allow entire medical histories to be stored in active archives at a regional healthcare system's data center rather than relying on external tape storage.

To serve these use cases optimally, Cerabyte is focused on two core milestones:

  1. Improving storage density/volume 10-100X over the next 2-3 years to achieve parity with top tape solutions.

  2. Optimizing seek/access times to under 10 seconds for random data retrieval from storage libraries of 1000s-10,000s media units.

Achieving these benchmarks will go a long way toward getting Cerabyte's glass-based media adopted for the extreme cold storage requirements of scientific and medical organizations at scale in the years ahead.

Key Takeaways

With the world's data volume growing at staggering rates, new solutions are desperately needed to manage cold data. Startups like Cerabyte are taking revolutionary approaches that could reshape the data center landscape in the years ahead.

Here are some of the key innovations that make Cerabyte's system compelling:

  • Media lifespan of thousands of years vs. 5-10 years for current mediums. 

  • Taps into existing manufacturing pipelines for low-cost scaling.

  • Laser etching for incredible data density of up to one exabyte per rack.  

  • 75% cheaper per TB than HDDs and 50% cheaper than tape solutions.

  • Virtually no electricity needed for data retention = massive power savings.

For any organization accumulating vast amounts of inactive yet valuable data, scientific research, medical, governmental, hyperscale cloud, Cerabyte may offer the affordable long-durability solution the industry sorely needs. 

We'll be keeping an eye on this company as it looks to make data storage sustainable for the exabyte era ahead.


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