Microsoft's plan to store data for 10,000 years
5:25

Microsoft's plan to store data for 10,000 years

Science
What if I told you that Superman was in this piece of glass? That is a breakthrough proof of concept from Microsoft's project Silica, which aims to show that glass is the future of long term data storage. In this media, basically it doesn't decay. So, once you've written the data in there, it's going to be there for 50, 100, 1,000, 10,000 years. To understand how it all works, we visited the Microsoft Research Lab in Cambridge, England to get a demo of the whole process with our very own piece of glass. We store the data by first of all writing it, focusing on A femtosecond laser inside the glass, and firing incredibly short pulses of energy into the glass. And at the point where it's focused as sort of structural change. That's called a structural change happens the glass which forms What we call a nano grating. When we form that structure inside the glass, we're able to control both the depth and the angle and that allows us to record multiple bits both in the depth and in the orientation. To prove projects silica is usefulness outside the lab, Microsoft found a partner with a lot of important data to protect. We do have the largest film and television library in the world. It's the responsibility we take incredibly seriously to make sure that this content is available for generations to come. You know, one of these organisations that really worries about storing data for not just 10 years or 50 years but they think in terms of hundreds of years Here at Warner Brothers studios in Burbank, California and We got a glimpse of what high stakes long term data storage can look like inside a temperature controlled vault. So top secret, they wouldn't let me show you the outside of the building. In total, we have about 750,000 film elements in these vaults. We've opened up one of the base here so we can show you kind of how the film real sit on the shelves. One of the things back into technology really is to partner with companies and organizations like Warner Brothers to understand what they need with technology like this. In order for us to allow us to drive it in that direction. Film is a very stable format, but for a lot of our new shows and movies They're shot digitally, they're not shot on film. So we need to try to find an alternative to hard drives or LTO data tape. What is incredibly satisfying about this is that this has resulted in something real. The first Warner Brothers property to get the project silica treatment was the 1978 original Superman. A movie, condensing 22 reels of film into one piece of glass that could fit in your pocket. The Superman movie was chosen to pioneer this technology in part because of his Superman radio show, which was archived using glass records back in the 1940s. When we did the Superman work with Warner Brothers, we wrote about 75.6 gigs of media files, we wrote another, I think probably 20 or 30 gigs But with error redundancy so tha should anything go wrong, we're able to recontruct the movie. What we're actually looking for is something that even has some physical attributes that are better than film, something that you could get wet, something that you don't have to store at a very low temperature like we do here for the film reels, something that would survive an electromagnetic pulse. Solar flare or something like that. To show off some of the advantages of Project Silica, Microsoft put our little piece of glass through a gauntlet of torture tests. If your media can cope with water, you can use different ways of extinguishing fires within a data center. If it can cope with heat, Universe don't need to cool the data center as much. You know, electric magnetic pulses, that's microwaves, the struggling integration with your show because effectively you're writing inside the glass you think it's like a CD, you're effectively writing on the surface. So when you damage the surface or you do anything, you're actually impacting the state of your story on this was storing it inside the glass. And therefore, you should have not worried about the surface as much. If you've cracked the glass, the data is still stored inside the glass still exists. If you really want to destroy it, you need to sort of either melt it or grind it up. After the torture tests were finished, Microsoft was still able to read the data off our piece of glass. We basically read the data back out by imaging modifications that have happened inside the glass. In this building in Cambridge, we have the folks who worked on a lot of the original Kinect and a lot of the image processing for HoloLens. And so we were able to talk to them about how to actually do the image processing on our piece of glass. Next is. Is probably the most promising real option we've seen to the gold standard of film, which we'd love for this to live side by side. We started to develop this technology in the context of the cloud and thinking about what about how to make Cloud Storage, faster, better, cheaper, more scalable, working with Warner Brothers. Sort of helped us understand how the technology can help other companies and other people solve the problems that they've got. Which were not the ones we were initially considering. Microsoft is still working on increasing the read and write speed of its project silica glass. So, it'll likely be a while before this sort of thing catches on at a large scale. It's also investigating other potential methods of storing data long term including DNA. Big thanks to my colleagues today, Incan Renata in the UK for filming the Microsoft Cambridge half of this piece. And thanks to you all for watching. See you next time with the fam.

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