Eye to Eye: Storage and archiving


In 1986 or thereabouts, I visited the London headquarters of a stripling company named Lightworks which had developed an innovative and relatively low-cost video editor based around a 1 gigabyte hard-disk drive. The drive was the size of a standard British housebrick and, bought in at £1,000, was considered mightily good value. A typical 1,500 gigabyte HDD today occupies less than half that volume and costs under £90. When I bought my first digital camera back in 1988, a 4 megabyte plug-in RAM cost £40; the same outlay today buys 16 gigabytes.
So where are storage and archiving going? Is the future simply one of more compact, more powerful and more affordable media? Or will storage simply move away from the user to the relative safety of 'the cloud', meaning free or rented space at the remote end of a wired or wireless link? It is in fact going both ways at the same time. Cautious archivists will increasingly store on their own local servers and online. Companies already offering fast-access online data archiving services include Amazon, Ctera Networks, Google, Microsoft, Nasumi, Nirvanix and Webair. Some of these are currently small-capacity, focused more on text and web-documents than audio or video content, but the online storage business and the technology supporting it are developing very quickly.
Unless you are contemplating starting your own online data hosting business the detail of which storage medium to use is relatively academic. Although solid-state memory is becoming increasingly attractive for audio and video capture, it is not yet a serious medium for post-production let alone content archiving. But that could change. The Web is a mine (or minefield) of potential storage technologies including some scary-looking organic schemes that will leave you wondering about the trade-off between capacity and longevity.
The integration of single-spin magnetoelectronics into standard silicon technology may soon be possible if experiments confirm a new theoretical prediction by physicists at the Naval Research Laboratory and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The researchers predict that a family of well-known silicon surfaces, stabilised by small numbers of gold atoms, is intrinsically magnetic despite having no magnetic elements. None of these surfaces has yet been investigated experimentally for magnetism, but the new predictions are already supported indirectly by existing data. Silicon provides a unique entry point for combining magnetoelectronics based on single spins with standard electronics technology. If a single-spin device can be built on a silicon wafer, input and output electronics can be directly integrated with the magnetic part of the device.
Fujifilm in cooperation with IBM claims a world record in data density on linear magnetic tape: 29.5 billion bits per square inch using perpendicularly oriented barium ferrite particles. The demonstration points to the possibility of developing a single tape cartridge capable of holding 35 terabytes of uncompressed data.
Hitachi Maxell and Tokyo Institute of Technology recently announced the development of ultra high capacity tape media with nano-structured sputtered magnetic film. The team demonstrated an areal density of 45 gigabits per square inch on a linear formatted perpendicular magnetic recording medium, equivalent to 50 terabytes capacity on a standard tape cartridge and 33 times larger than a capacity of the latest LTO Ultrium 5 data cartridge.
Iomega plans to move all its eGo portable hard drives in 500 gigabyte and 1 terabyte capacities to the new USB 3.0 interface by early October. The drives will be fully compatible with all USB 2.0 computers. They will include Iomega’s Drop Guard Xtreme which "provides added protection from drops of nearly seven feet or twice the industry average" (presumably while switched off).
SanDisk has begun testing miniature solid state memories that can be soldered directly to motherboards. Capacities are 4 to 64 gigabytes.Each memory module measures 16 x 20 x 1.85 mm, weighs less than 1 gramme, and uses the SATA interface employed for conventional hard drives.
Seagate's recently-announced 3 terabyte GoFlex Desk external drive allows connection via USB 2.0 interface, USB 3.0 or FireWire 800. The drive is compatible with both the Microsoft Windows operating system and Apple Mac OS X computers. Each drive includes an NTFS driver which allows the drive to store and access files from both Windows and Mac computers without reformatting. US price is $250.
Sony has signed an LTO5 licensing contract with an industry consortium consisting of Hewlett Packard, IBM and Quantum. This allows Sony to start development of its LTO5 Ultrium magnetic tape medium. Each cartridge will be able to store up to 1.5 terabytes native (3 terabytes 2:1 compressed) of data.
Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan have recorded data at a density of 4 trillion bits per square inch, about eight times the density of today's most advanced magnetic hard-disk drives. The data-recording device scans a cantilever tip which rides in contact with the surface of a ferroelectric medium. To write data, an electric pulse is sent through the tip, changing the electric polarisation and dielectric constant of a circular spot in the substrate beneath. To read data, the same tip detects the variations in nonlinear dielectric constant in the altered regions.
Toshiba has developed a hard disk drive with a density equivalent to 2.5 terabits per square inch. This is five times the density of Toshiba's current highest capacity drive which has a density of 541 gigabits per square inch. The technology was disclosed at the 21st Magnetic Recording Conference which began on Monday August 16 in San Diego.
NEC Corporation has meanwhile developed a video content identification technology that detects illegal copies of video content uploaded to the Internet. It generates a video signature to identify the content then compares video signatures to the signatures of original content in order to detect copies or altered versions. Altered video content such as caption overlays, camera-captured copies and analogue copies can be detected. Video signatures are extracted for each frame based on differences in the luminance between sets of sub-regions that are defined by a variety of locations, sizes, and shapes. The video signatures are claimed to represent a unique fingerprint that can be individually detected frame by frame. The technology is said to be capable of accurately detecting video scenes as short as 2 seconds (60 frames).

Tags: storage | archive | lightworks | iss045 | fujifilm | hitachi | iomega | sandisk | seagate | sony | toshiba | nec | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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