Microsoft is conducting research on using glass as a data storage medium. They have been experimenting with this technology for some time and are now focusing on using it for long-term data center storage. The Project Silica initiative was introduced in 2017 to address the limitations of magnetic storage, which deteriorates over time and requires data to be copied onto new storage. In collaboration with the Elire Group, Microsoft demonstrated the proof-of-concept in 2022 by using Project Silica technologies for the Global Music Vault. The key technologies behind Project Silica involve the use of femtosecond lasers to write data onto specialized glass plates and polarisation-sensitive microscopy to read the data. The data is written onto the plates as three-dimensional pixels (voxels). According to Microsoft, the low-energy read process prevents data from being overwritten, and the mechanical design ensures that media cannot be accidentally placed into a writer. Glass, unlike other storage mediums, is durable and can endure abuse and scratching while remaining readable. The Project Silica storage system uses glass plates the size of drink coasters to store multiple terabytes of data for potentially thousands of years. Microsoft envisions using robots to handle the archival plates to prevent human errors, and their Azure AI assists in converting the raw data into computer-readable formats.
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