New Optical Drive Technology Could Make $5 Per TB Possible

Foresight: Despite the transition of consumer PCs and game consoles to faster SSDs, traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) continue to offer ever more space for cold storage at lower prices. A company says it can make a significant leap forward in optical disc technology.

Folio Photonics announced a new method of optical disc storage this week that could make hard drives bigger and cheaper than ever. By using new materials and manufacturing techniques, the company says it can offer storage at $5 per terabyte, and eventually $1 per terabyte. The best hard drives are currently five times more expensive at around $25 per terabyte.

Newer optical drives come with dynamic multi-layer write/read capabilities, which were previously uneconomical at enterprise scale. Folio has achieved this through patented polymer extrusion, film-based disc construction processes, custom optical pickup units, an easily scalable polymer co-extrusion process, and new generation”.

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Where archival discs today offer up to three optical layers per side per disc, Folios reach 16 film layers. The company plans to continue to increase this number.

Folio also claims that its drives are more energy efficient than traditional hard drives, with its implementation hopefully reducing the carbon footprint of the digital storage industry. In addition, new hard drives are more resistant to electromagnetic pulses.

The company plans to start offering the new hard drives in 2024, with 10-drive units carrying 1TB per drive, translating to 10TB hard drives for around $50. Currently, that sum could net you a 2TB hard drive. Folio hopes to eventually offer larger drives.

If Folio’s technology takes off, it could revolutionize the current competition in hard drives larger than two dozen terabytes. Manufacturers like Western Digital and Seagate are racing to create 30TB drives by the middle of this decade and hit 100TB by 2030. These companies and Toshiba are pushing the boundaries of hard drive storage and performance with technologies such as HAMR, microwave assist and iNAND memory.

Seagate released a 20TB hard drive in 2020 and WD unveiled a 26TB drive earlier this year. Recent advances in multilayer technology could dramatically accelerate the storage race.

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