roadmap for future optical storage technologies

DVD and MO technology are well established in the storage market for storing large amounts of static content and reference data. The physical, and technological, characteristics of optical media are ideal in applications which must reliably store and retrieve data over extended periods of time. The recent passage of laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 are in response to recent records management issues in certain business sectors, and have increased awareness within the IT industry. Among the penalties outlined in recent laws are monetary fines, and even jail time, for those who fail to meet the requirements for records management and retention.

Current DVD and MO storage libraries are pushing up to 10 TBs, per system, of capacity for a wide range of applications. While both mediums are, at a glance, similar in functionality and utility, there are some distinct advantages inherent to each type. On the surface, the DVD format offers a more easily accepted 120mm form factor, identical to the now common compact disc (CD) format. In this instance size matters as DVD media is stored in bare form without need for cartridges, offering greater storage capacity in a small footprint.

Magneto optical technology’s greatest strength is in its faster access times, up to 5 times or better, than the DVD format. The trade-off is that MO has a slightly larger form-factor than DVD, because it is a cartridge-based media, keeping the media cleaner, requires a greater amount of space in a storage library. Imagine an oversize floppy disk-like plastic enclosure over the bare media. Also, the cost for professional MO libraries is 2-3 times higher than for similar-capacity DVD libraries.

The introduction of DVD multi-function drives, which are capable of reading and writing multiple DVD formats, have virtually, ended all criticism regarding multiple formats.

Up until now, optical storage has not effectively grown, capacity-wise, alongside user requirements. Next-generation optical storage will be based upon the upcoming blue-book / laser format which has a shorter wave length of 405nm. The goal behind this endeavor is to be able to expand storage capacity by 3x within the same 120mm form factor while increasing read and write performance characteristics.

While the shorter wavelength is one parameter which increases storage capacity, additional measures are being developed which will extend the media storage capacity significantly further. The major principles being used are:

• Different geometry of the optical lens (numerical aperture)
• Utilization of several storage layers which can be read/written from one side
• Utilize both media surfaces (dual sided)

Multiple blue laser formats have been recently introduced: The Sony Professional Blue Laser, Plasmon’s Ultra Density Optical (UDO) and the Blue Laser Format by the DVD Forum all offer increased storage density, random access and both WORM (write once, read many) and re-writeable functionality.

Below is a comparison between DVD and the new blue laser technologies:

  Major CD, DVD and BlueLaser Parameters by Comparison
  Technology CD DVD Blue Laser
  Laser 780 nm 650 nm 405 nm
  Aperature of optical lens 0.45 0.6 0.7 / 0.85
  Number of recording layers 1 1 1 / 2
  Number of utilized media sides 1 1 1 / 2
  Maximum capacity per media 750 MB 9.4 MB 23 GB to 120 GB

Utilizing a shorter laser wavelength, different optical lens geometry, double-sided media and dual recording layers per media side, blue laser vendors will double storage capacity and performance every two years, at least, for the announced first three generations of product offerings.

The application of the blue laser technology for the professional storage market is expected for the following products:

  Technology Announcement
  Product 130 mm Cartridge Product 120 mm Cartridge Product 120 mm Bare Media Product
  Vendor Plasmon Sony Toshiba, NEC
  Announcement Ultra Density Optical
November 2002
Sony Professional
Blue Laser
April 2003
Proposed by DVD Forum
  Expected Availability October 2003 September 2003 2004

For the consumer market a blue laser technology announcement was released in Q3/2002 by the ‘BluRay consortium’ which includes Hitachi Ltd, LG Electronics, Matsushita, Pioneer Corp., Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony and Thomson. A first product announcement for the consumer market product was released by Sony for product availability in April 2003.

Ultra Density Optical

Optical drive manufacturer Plasmon is developing the drives and media for this 130mm product. The drives will have a half height 5 ¼“ form-factor and the media will be cartridge-based. Compared to MO technology, the UDO cartridge will be a ‘dual-shutter’ design designed to meet stricter cleanliness requirements.

UDO media will be phase-change type and will be offered in both WORM and re-writeable formats. UDO will not be compatible with other optical storage technologies. The first generation UDO product in Q3/2003 will have a capacity of 30GB per cartridge (15GB per side).

  UDO Roadmap with Applied Technologies
    Generation 1 Generation 2 Generation 3
  Availability 2003 2005 2007
  Capacity / Medium 30 GB 60 GB 120 GB
  Transfer Rate* up to 8 MB / sec up to 12 MB / sec up to 18 MB / sec
  Drive Speed (CAV) 2000 RPM 3000 RPM 3600 RPM
  Numerical Aperture 0.7 0.7 0.85
  Recording Layers 1 2 2
  Recording Sides 2 2 2
  Sector Size 8kB 8kB 8kB
  Spin up Time 5 sec 5 sec 5 sec
  Host Interface LVD-80 LVD-80 LVD-80
  Seek Time 25 ms 25 ms 25 ms
  Media Life 50 Years 50 Years 50 Years
  Media Cost
~ 2.0 $ / GB* ~ 1.0 $ / GB ~ 0.5 $ / GB
* Write transfer rate will be reduced by 50% if write verify is utilized
* Projected price per GB

Sony Professional Blue Laser

Sony Electronics, well established in the professional storage market, is developing the drives and media for this 120mm product. The technology/product announcement was released in April for Q3/2003 product availability.

Drives will have a half height 5 ¼ “ form-factor while media will be cartridge-based. The cartridge will be similar in design to the consumer-grade BluRay cartridge product. First generation product will begin as single-sided media, with dual recording layers which will allow access up to 23 GB capacities per side.

Media will be phase change technology in both WORM and rewritable formats and will not be compatible with other optical technologies. The first generation Sony Blue Laser product will be available in Q3/2003, with capacities of 23GB per platter.

  Sony Professional Blue Laser & Applied Technologies
    Generation 1 Generation 2 Generation 3
  Availability 2003 2005 2007
  Capacity / Medium 23 GB 50 GB 100 GB
  Transfer Rate* up to 9 MB / sec up to 18 MB / sec up to 36 MB / sec
  Numerical Aperture 0.85 0.85 0.85
  Recording Layers 2 2 2
  Recording Sides 1 1 2
  Sector Size 2kB 2kB 2kB
  Spin up Time 5 sec 5 sec 5 sec
  Host Interface LVD-160 LVD-160 LVD-160
  Seek Time 60 ms 60 ms 60 ms
  Media Life 50 Years 50 Years 50 Years
* Write transfer rate will be reduced by 50% if write verify is utilized, Write is in CLV mode

Price for the professional 120mm blue laser product is expected to be below UDO cost, detailed cost for both products will be available in Q3/2003.

120mm Bare Media Product

The DVD forum has started 2 workgroups for blue laser developments:

• 0.6mm Technology (i.e. NA 0.7)
• 0.1mm Technology (i.e. NA 0.85)

For the 0.6mm technology (2 media sides of 0.6mm result in a total media thickness of 1.2mm) the companies Toshiba/NEC have made a technology announcement, media capacity is 30GB.

The 0.6mm technology, because of its 0.7NA will be compatible to the DVD technology. The schedule for the industrial use of this technology is not available at this time.The application of the blue laser bare media technology in the professional storage/archive industry will allow the design of a very competitive library design. Libraries will have the best form factor among the blue laser-enabled libraries and are expected to havethe lowest cost/GB compared to UDO and Sony Blue Laser products.

No technology announcement has been made for the .1 mm technology (NA 0.85) at this point.


Current DVD and MO storage technologies offer unparalleled capacity and reliability for long-term storage and archive applications. With growing market acceptance and de-facto standardization in the DVD area, market share for optical storage is expected to increase in 2004 and 2005.

Applications requiring very high storage capacities will be the first to adopt the newer blue laser products, taking advantage of the improvements made in capacity and transfer rates. It is expected, for the first time, that optical technology will be able to successfully compete in arenas currently held by magnetic tape such as backup and disaster recovery.

DISC, as a manufacturer of nearline storage solutions, has made extended efforts to offer products and solutions that address the requirements of long-term and archive applications. Our commitment to deliver the best-of-breed products, combined with our long-term and strategic partnerships with industry leaders will allow us to further develop our products using the latest in optical storage technology now, and in the future.

DISC product plan:

• 130mm UDO: Planned availability in the Orion Series in Q3/2003, mixed media support for MO/UDO
• 120mm cartridge technology: Planned availability in the Orion Series in Q4/2003
• 120mm bare media Blue Laser: Planned availability in the NSM Series in 2004

DISC Incorporated
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