Sony sees the cold light of optical archives, buys ex-Facebooker's upstart

Tech giant hopes new acquisition will solve its data jukebox problems

Sony is buying ex-FaceBook open compute project exec Frank Frankovsky’s optical storage startup to boost its optical archive prospects.

Frankovsky’s idea was to use racks of enhanced-capacity optical storage disks for archiving cold data. The system would have better throughput than existing optical storage systems. He started Optical Archive Inc. (OAI) in March 2014.

Now Sony Corporation of America (SCA) has bought OAI on behalf of Sony Corporation which, of course, has a Blu-ray optical disk business, with plans in partnership with Panasonic to increase capacity to 300GB this year, then on through 500GB to 1TB some time in the future.

Financial terms were not revealed.

Sony will add its optical disc and manufacturing technology to OAI’s data centre hardware design, supply chain operations and systems integration expertise to bring optical disk-based archival library products to market. Sony, and OAI, believe optical disk products will be cheaper than disk archives and provide faster data access than tape-based archives.

But this has always been the optical archive dream, which the failure of holographic storage technology has not dampened. A Sony SVP, Terushi Shimizu, showed he had drunk the Kool-Aid: "This acquisition marks the beginning of our commitment to this growing market. Optical disk libraries will provide many advantages to customers who are currently using tape or hard-drive technology to store cold data, such as lower costs, extremely durable media life and higher data throughput rates.”

Sony sees this as a means of selling lots of disks in the future: “We plan to leverage and expand our existing optical disk production lines in order to accommodate the growing demand for this media."

Frankovsky’s canned quote said: ”Merging Sony's excellence in optical engineering and manufacturing with OAI's experience and capabilities in data centre hardware design and operations will deliver innovative new storage solutions to customers."

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