Sony and Panasonic Archival Disc Technology is Coming

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In a joint effort to develop a new standard for optical discs, Sony and Panasonic have unveiled the new “Archival Disc” format, with planned storage capacities up to 1TB per disc. Citing their ability to handle dust, water, and changes in temperature and humidity better than hard drives, Sony and Panasonic clearly see optical discs as the way forward for long-term data storage. The development of large-capacity optical media may also see an impact in the consumer video realm, keeping the format alive as we slowly transition to a 4K environment.

Sony and Panasonic announced their plans to produce the next generation of optical discs in July, 2013, with both companies committing to use their experience developing Blu-ray Disc technology to drive forward the optical disc format. The announcement of the Archival Disc format comes at a time where there is an increasing need for reliable archival solutions—especially in video production and animation studios, broadcast studios, and cloud data centers. Sony and Panasonic promise inter-generational compatibility between different formats, ensuring that your digital data will be readable in the future, even as the format evolves.

There’s no hiding the fact that digital storage has been moving away from optical discs for several years, with streaming services and flash media storage preventing Blu-ray from reaching the popularity that DVDs once had. The push from Panasonic and, especially, Sony, for larger-capacity optical discs is a strong indicator that Blu-ray Discs simply can’t reach the storage capacity to keep up. Sony, with their 4K-capable Playstation 4 and Ultra HD televisions, has a lot invested in the consumer 4K infrastructure. The Archival Disc format could have a profound effect not only on 4K video releases, but also the gaming community, with an optical disc format capable of storing 4K-resolution games, or even used as removable storage for downloaded games.

Sony and Panasonic are aiming to launch Archival Disc systems by summer 2015, with a recording capacity of 300GB per disc and future expansion to 500GB and 1TB discs. I, for one, am very interested to see where the technology goes, and with both Sony and Panasonic's backing actively promoting the new standard, it’s hard to bet against it. Will the technology only find its way into archival solutions, or will it permeate the consumer market? Only time will tell, but what is clear is that Archival Disc, if nothing else, gives optical discs a lifeline in a 4K future.

Disc size (type) 300GB (write-once)
Optical parameter Wavelength λ=405 nm (nanometers), Numerical Aperture NA=0.85 
Disc structure Double-sided Disc (3 layers/side), Land and Groove Format
Track pitch 0.225 μm (micrometers)
Data bit length 79.5 nm (nanometers)
Error correction method Reed-Solomon Code

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A lot will depend on the drives for the discs.  Can ordinary people can afford them?  Are they reliable?  How long does it take to record a disc?  Any problems playing them back? 

If Sony and Panasonic are able to keep to the timeline that they set, the drives, and media, would be released in 2015. At this time they have not released a price point, information on its speed, or if it will use a proprietary format. It is too early to tell if it will stand up to reliability claims. 

The Achilles' Heel of archival storage is long-term reliability. I have seen too many devices and technologies that failed to live up to the expectation that they'd be there when needed at some unpredicted point in the future. Manufacturers' promises are little better than advertising lies; only long-term performance will reveal whether this technology may safely be relied upon.

The odds are not favourable.

Excellent! I would Love to be able to condense some of my disc collection so as to take up less space. Of course, as always, I'm sure there will be a Hefty Price per disc at first, and probably for years to come. Look at the price of ordinary dual layer blank DVD's. I've Still never had any, in spite of the fact that I really could use some. Still a bit steep for my Fixed Income Budget. Time Marches On and The World Keeps On Turning!

It better be scratch proof.