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Plasmon’s UDO and Blu -Ray: top shelf technologies in optical data storage

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019
Phase Change technology of writing data optimises the write time and allows for more efficient data storage

Phase Change technology of writing data optimises the write time and allows for more efficient data storage

It’s commonly known that technology used for storage purposes must be characterized by its huge data capacity in order to make the whole enterprise economically viable. Using this one criterion only, there are only two suitable technologies left: UDO (Ulttra Density Optical) and Blu-Ray disc.

Since they offer similar benefits in general, the question which technology has bigger chances to stay on the market will be determined by the investment costs of its implementation and by the size of the existing installed base. The answer may be obvious already…

The UDO technology was developed by Plasmon as a replacement for MO (Magneto Optical) technology in the beginning of this century with long term archiving in mind. UDO -1 holds 30 GB per disc and the newly developed UDO – 2 can hold up to 60 GB per disc, 30 GB per each side. It’s double sided which requires a rotation mechanism to turn the media over. It uses Phase Change technology to write data. The data can be read/written at 8 MG/sec. using Reed Solomon error correction.  The laser is applied at two heat levels what provides faster write times, higher storage densities and higher life cycle (the number of writes that a spot can whitstand at its full capacity). Its estimated archive life exceeds 50 years. The medium is housed in a rugged dust proof caddy.

Unfortunately, high costs of UDO’s implementation and proprietary issues, plus a few extra drawbacks, like the fact that a special software is required to read UDO media or the lack of a native format, made Plasmon went into administration at the end of 2008. The technology was sold and it’s now manufactured by Alliance Storage Technologies. Similar fate was shared by InPhase Technology, which also attempted to develop holographic storage and failed due to same reasons.

With UDO’s experience in mind, it’s now clear why it is Blu – Ray that prevails as a widely used archiving medium. It is supported by hundreds of companies globally and shares many of the features with UDO, like high reliability and low maintenance costs. Its main benefit over UDO is huge installed base and the universal format of the written data. Of course, Blu- Ray ‘naturally’ evolved from CD and DVD which makes it backward compatible. It is also not as ruggedised as UDO and is housed in slim jukeboxes (some marketing specialists dare to label them even as ‘sexy’).

And what is the moral of that story? Maybe something like: no matter how advanced and sophisticated the technologie is, it’s always up to the market to determine its overall life span by verifying all its aspects  with scrutiny.

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