When most people think of storing data like videos, pictures, and documents in the cloud, the normal view is that the data is placed in storage drives on servers that are located in huge data centers. However, the future might see a change in how data is stored for future use.

Microsoft has announced that its research arm is working on what it calls Project Silica. Simply put, it’s trying to create a new storage technology that will use glass plates that will store tons of data inside.

Microsoft says:

Data is stored in glass via a four-step process: writing with an ultrafast femtosecond laser, reading through a computer-controlled microscope, decoding, and finally, storing in a library. The library is passive, with no electricity in any of the storage units. The complexity is within the robots that charge as they idle inside the lab, awakening when data is needed. They climb the shelves, fetch the glass, and then zip back to the reader.

At the moment the technology can be used to store several terabytes of data on a small glass plate, and that data will last for at least 10,000 years. Because these glass plates are so small, they require a fraction of the amount of space compared to current cloud data centers,

At the moment Microsoft is working with a venture group called Elire to use the technology in Project Silica to help create the Global Music Vault in Svalbard, Norway. The tech will allow for songs to be stored with glass plates, which are both environmentally friendly and also resistant to electromagnetic pulses.

The bad news is that this glass plate data storage tech is still not commercially viable. Microsoft says it will take between three to four developmental stages before it reaches that level. However, in some point in the future, Microsoft Azure cloud centers could be using the technology from Project Silica to store your photos, videos, audio, and documents.


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