Sony Bets on Blue Lasers

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Sony Electronics is rolling out storage products based on blue laser optical disc technology.

Sony’s Professional Disc for DATA (ProDATA) drives pack 23GB of storage capacity onto a single-sided optical disc by using blue laser technology and advanced optics, according to Robert DeMoulin, marketing manager for branded storage products in Sony Electronics’ IT Products Division. That’s five times the capacity of DVDs and 32 times the capacity of CDs.

With 11MB/second read and 9MB/second write transfer speeds, DeMoulin says the technology is ideal for high-performance applications such as document and medical imaging, email archiving, enterprise content management, multimedia projects, graphic design, and audio/video editing and authoring.

Sony ProDATA Drive and Media

Sony ProDATA
External Drive and Media

ProDATA drives use a blue-violet laser to achieve a shorter wavelength (405nm) than is possible with the traditional red lasers (650nm) used in CD, DVD, and MO (Magneto Optical) drives. The shorter wavelength creates a smaller laser beam spot, which results in higher storage density.

At $2 per gigabyte and a roadmap over the next few years that includes even lower cost and greater speed and capacity, Blue Laser and the competing UDO technology are “worthy of consideration … for certain production environments and in industries that mandate strict controls for the creation and storing of electronic records,” Enterprise Storage Group analyst Peter Gerr wrote in a recent report on the technology.

Blue laser optical storage “provides removable non-erasable, non-rewritable media that also now happens to be cost-competitive with magnetic disk and has the longest proven shelf life of any electronic storage media,” Gerr wrote.

Gerr gives the early edge to Plasmon’s UDO technology because HP and IBM have committed to delivering storage drives, libraries, and solutions based on UDO.

Optical storage “has enjoyed modest but stable success in several industries, notably media/entertainment, financial services, and the government, where long-term immutability, and non-erasability and non-rewritability were key requirements,” Gerr told Enterprise Storage Forum. In financial services, “regulators are very comfortable and accepting of optical,” so the technology has an edge in that industry.

Gerr says he thinks blue laser technology will give optical storage “a resurgence.” It won’t compete with disk-based storage for primary capacity except in a few industries and for specific requirements like removability and WORM (write once, read many). Gerr says he expects more blue laser-based products from IBM, HP, Sony, and others, and also from those targeting the healthcare market, such as GE Medical or Siemens.

Sony’s new lineup includes three models designed for integration into a wide variety of environments: internal SCSI, external SCSI, and external
USB 2.0 versions. Sony and other media makers offer both write-once and rewritable ProDATA media, with an archival life of up to 50 years.

ProDATA technology allows for high-speed random access of files, making it suitable for both near-line and archival storage applications, according to Sony. “It’s a natural progression for companies that have outgrown 9GB Magneto Optical (MO) technology, including those in the healthcare, telecommunications, insurance, government, legal, and financial industries,” DeMoulin says.

The Sony-branded ProDATA solution kits include disc formatting and backup software. The media is encased in a resin cartridge to protect it from dust,
fingerprints, and other contaminants.

The ProDATA drives have a suggested retail price of $2,995 for the internal SCSI model (BW-F101/A) and $3,299 for the external SCSI model (BW-RS101) or
the external USB 2.0 model (BW-RU101). Professional Disc for DATA media is currently available at a suggested retail price of $45 for both the write-once version and the rewritable version.

Sony also offers an Autochanger that delivers up to 1.6TB of native capacity in a 19-inch rack-mount design that may be configured with one, two, or four
drives, and ASACA Corp. offers a blue laser-based library, the TeraCart, based on Sony’s technology.

The TeraCart is available with SAN and NAS support, and can start with a single cabinet and expand to as many as eight libraries for capacities reaching hundreds of terabytes. The libraries can be managed as a single physical unit, with pricing starting at $20,000.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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