Computers / Buying Guide

A Peek Into the Future of Storage

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A few decades ago, we had only one type of main storage technology—which is a header and spinning-platter design—the hard drive. But today, we have solid-state technology that comes in many form factors, such as mSATA, M.2, and 2.5". Storage drives are mostly an overlooked item in a computer system; but it should be held equally as important as your system’s processor and RAM. With an SSD as a primary drive, computer systems boot up in well under a minute and start apps faster, when compared to other systems outfitted with a hard drive and faster processor. You might be thinking, “If SSDs are so great, why would we need something better?” To figure out why future drives need to offer larger capacities and faster access times than what we have now, we’re going to take a quick dive into computers of the future.

Samsung 250GB 850 Evo mSATA SSD

Future Computing

Current computer systems operate on a binary format of “1”s or “0”s; however, consumer-level systems in the far future will work with this pair of digits, as well as somewhere in between—at the same time—thanks to quantum technology. This level of processing power will speed up calculations millions of times faster and can probably crack your 128-digit password before you finish typing it out. And the folks at Google already have working quantum machines for research and government use. With systems this fast and consuming vast amounts of data, storage will need to step up its game. We’ll look at a few innovations in the storage arena that can meet those requirements—some of them are ready now—while others are a long way off for consumer availability.

Storage for the Ages

One other factor about drives not mentioned, but should be, is durability. With large amounts of irreplaceable data being generated each day, preserving this content is critical. Most manufacturers rate their drives reliably in under a decade or sooner. After that time, it’s best to back up the contents to a newer drive. To solve this dilemma, research has been done to encode vast amounts of data on a medium that has been available for thousands of years. With a few strands of synthetic DNA, you could store all the apps, videos, photos, and more held on a computer. Using this technique, DNA-based storage drives will have two distinct major advantages: size and reliability. Theoretically, a fraction of an ounce of DNA can fit 300,000 times more data than a 1TB hard drive and hold that data for the next millennium. This storage process won’t be ready for a while, but hopefully, it will keep future quantum-based systems busy when available.

More Bang for Your Buck

For technology that will be available to the average consumer soon, 96-layer 3D NAND technology has been recently developed in a partnership with Western Digital and Toshiba, and will provide larger storage capacities in SSDs than the typical 512GB and 1TB we are accustomed to seeing. This technology will be available in 3-bits-per-cell and 4-bits-per-cell architectures to deliver performance and reliability at an affordable price point. With this technology on board, you should spend the same amount of money and receive twice the amount of storage space when picking up an SSD built next year.

Outstanding Performance with Impressive Storage Space

But what about now? Have you ever heard of an SSD with digital storage space in the double digits? Most people always thought of hard drives having the largest capacity, while SSDs providing the fastest speeds; however, the world of storage has changed. Seagate has commercial-grade 2.5" SSDs available now and offers Nytro 3000 SAS SSDs that deliver up to 15TB of storage capacities and 2,100 MB/s in sequential read speeds through dual 12 Gb/s SAS interfaces. This SAS-outfitted SSD is more than suitable to handle advanced VR rendering, so you can work in detailed 360° environments without experiencing stutters.

Samsung 500GB 850 Evo 2.5" SATA III SSD

Storage Drives for Today

Aside from solid-state technology, hard drives have also improved with helium technology developed a few years ago by HGST, which is now part of WD. With helium technology, cloud storage services, big data centers, and multi-bay storage arrays are benefiting from high-capacity, low-operating-cost drives. This technology replaces the air within the hard drive with helium and then seals this gas in the drive’s housing. Since helium is one-seventh the density of air, platters experience less friction, while arms suffer less turbulence within the drive. This reduction in resistance allows helium-based drives to consume less power than air-filled versions. Moreover, Helium drives can support an eighth platter to grant systems storage capacities of up to 12TB. If you have a NAS unit from Synology, QNAP, or Drobo, WD’s Gold Datacenter drives are suitable storage options. Another brand that offers these innovative drives is G-technology designed for the company’s line of NAS servers.

Synology DiskStation DS216+II 2-Bay NAS Enclosure

Cassette-Like Tapes Are Still Being Used

Another notable storage technology in the market today are magnetic tapes, which are neither hard drives or SSDs. These tapes are well suited to back up the contents stored on a hard drive and then hold on to that content for up to 30 years. Magnetic tapes are useful for writing data once and restoring it when required, letting datacenters archive large amounts of less-frequently accessed information. As of this writing, higher-end LTO tapes have a native capacity of 6TB and a compressed capacity of up to 15TB. To keep up with the growing capacities of hard drives, Sony and IBM have created magnetic tape technology that can accommodate a recording areal density of 201 Gb/in2, so that future data cartridges can store up to 330TB of content. These newer data cartridges will feature thinner tapes that sport a nano-grained magnetic layer, created using microscopic magnetic particles. Thinner tapes also allow the cartridge to house longer tapes—up to 1,000 meters in length. In addition to tape development, Sony has made a lubricant, which is placed between the tape’s surface and the magnetic head, to allow large amounts of writing done at high speeds.

Fujifilm LTO Ultrium 7 6TB Data Cartridge Tape with Barium Ferrite Technology

Wish List

Now that we’ve discussed the future of drive types, let us know in the Comments section, below, which type of drive you will be equipping your next system with, such as a Helium drive or an advanced SSD, or which drive technology you want developed for outfitting a future rig. Personally, it would be nice to have all the available information one would ever need—contained in a few strands of DNA—that is placed in one’s own fingertip.

12 Comments

how long does this external drives or ssd will work? or will keep my datas? because i'm finding a storage which can store my datas safe forever

Can someone answer this: As a person who wondered how "They" could fit 64MB into such a small SD card, in the 1990s, and later, 64Gs into the same size and now there are micro SDs, at 1/4 the size with 128G and more... How do they do it?

And, why is there always less in each card than the desplayed amount. Why can't "They" make a card with 130 Gs and call it a 128Gs for a change. Do they always have to give less?

Miniaturization of semiconductors has been the driving force behind computing for decades.  By producing smaller "feature sizes" it becomes possible to put more and more onto the same physical area of a silicon (or other) wafer.  This also makes things work faster (eg. CPUs) and becomes cheaper to manufacture (if in large quantities)  And we all get to benefit.

Jake

Formatted capacity on all digital storage media is lower than the listed capacity but not by much and not a problem for most people.

What most people leave out: Most of the old fashioned HDs, which paople say are only good for less than   10 years and many people think changing them every five years is good enough, but think about this:

If you buy a 1T-2T and use it only for back-up and load it as you go, over a period of 6Mos. to a year, then it is not used like the regular units. They are not really used, since tzhey are used to back-up not for everyday usage. I have bought a few 500Gs-2Ts at great prices, $49-$85. My suggestion is to buy the new SSDs for your everyday work and storage, but old fashioned HD for back-up.

My primary storage needs are for photo files - mostly in the tens of MB but occasionally 200-300 MB for scanned film files. Currently 2 TB is enough to store all my files but the volume continues to increase so my future proofing is to use 4 TB hard disks. A SSD with 5 TB or more of capacity at a price under $300 would bake my biscuit. 

Even SSDs have their problems. If you think about the value of your work you may want to back-up on 2-3 seperate HDs. Read my comment above.

One suggestion is to use four 500Mb HD units in place of 2Ts, so you don't have so much on one unit and you can work with it. One drive can mean, if one drive goes down, your can't bake any more biscuits. I have one SSD/HD only for the best of my photos... The ones hat I have sent out and the ones I have published, Etc. This way I have all important shots in one or two places.

Don't trust a device to save your life.

"...a medium that has been available for thousands of years. With a few strands of synthetic DNA..."

Did the author actually write that? What is he, a young-earth creationist?

... And if he is???

Burn him at the stake, of course!

What I would like to see as an independent small company that does its own editing, is SSD storage that is actually affordable. Right now it's frustrating as who has $10,000 to drop on an array system? Then add SSD to the mix and only larger companies can do it. The demand for 4K is going up and larger storage capacity and the ability to edit 4K 5K 8K footage quicker . So my hope for next year is this stuff starts dropping in price significantly. It really is the only barrier for the independent filmmaker right now. Price. 

What about Sony's ODA Technology? Is there a future for it? Is it worth an invertion in it?

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