Microsoft Project Silica – Glass (Quartz) Archive Backup Technology for Content Creators?

Hello Readers!

An Update:

We did not find out anything about UFO’s, aliens or other ground breaking space technology more than what we already knew. The government isn’t giving anything away, just more questions rather than answers it seems. I never really expected much out of the senate hearings but it’s all quite interesting to me. We now have a system in which the military needs to classify UAPs (UFOs). That in itself is amazing. All this seems appropriate given the scope of the reality we may actually be living in. I mean if the end of the world was around the corner or some galactic race was controlling us do you think they would tell us? Would anyone even believe it if they did in today’s fake news world?  So, you can all breathe a little easier now (maybe not if you have corona..)

Personally I think something is going on out there. We can’t be certain of anything presently just mysterious objects flying around in weird ways and lots of people talking about it. Seeing as I’m just a lowly fiction and blog writer with a tiny viewership (you are all appreciated by the way!). I will probably never know the truth until it becomes mainstream or common knowledge. It is fun to delve into what might be though! As a writer I guess I come by it honestly. I will say that I can’t wait for those motivated journalists to go deep on this story and get us more information. Get us those answers please. What answers am I talking about? Well the all mighty “Are we alone?” Answer.

For the rest of us, we just have to sit tight and wait to see what happens and listen to more dreadful news about the world, corona virus or war and political assassination’s taking place in the world at present. You could do that or instead, go enjoy a movie at a theatre now! Don’t forget to stay 6 feet apart and grab a large popcorn and soft drink (yes folks, movies theatres are starting to open up again!).

Escapism isn’t going away any time soon! Escape the daily horror show that is the world news and events. Stop worrying about the Delta or even Delta+, Lambda or even Coronavirus-X news for a while. (okay I made that last virus up, but since they are probably going to use all the letters of the alphabet eventually, I took some liberties). Try not worrying about your kids now being the disease vector or not having a job to go back to, or that the borders that have just reopened will end up being shut down again. Don’t worry about why anti-vaxxers still refuse to choose life and help others rather then refer to logic, data and science in order to work together to bring us closer to ending this terrible pandemic. You can simply avoid all those arguments with family and friends over why their right and your wrong and simply just escape to the movie theatres! Support film, artists and writers!

Well with all that sarcasm aside. Let’s talk about today’s topic, Microsoft’s super interesting Project Silica!


Microsoft has been developing a solution to the problem world of data archival. This project aims to solve the problem by creating a solution that is practically indestructible. The short answer is that they are encoding or storing data on Silica or Quartz structures in three dimensions for long term data archiving. The benefit is that large amounts of data can be preserved.. wait for it… for billions of years (if necessary) beating the Ancient Egyptian’s Stone Hieroglyphs by a really big margin.

Note: Although I only recently heard about this project this year, Microsoft has been working on this and written an article back in 2019. they haven’t said much more about this since 2019 so I thought I’d share it and add my two cents because I don’t think many know about it.

How does it work?

Essentially, They use a femtometer scale Laser (really small) with a very narrow beam that can etch or create pockets within a quartz/glass solid object and record dips and valley’s or pockets of air to represent 1s and 0s. The closest analogy is like a CDROM or DVD or even Blu-ray where this is done on a plastic surface to store data however this data is written to a 3D structure and the pits are more like teardrops. A laser reads all these pits and valleys and then plays back the zeros and ones back into the building blocks of what are your files from your computer, thus storing them in “Glass”.

The data is stored in three dimensions allowing for much more data. the size or shape of the Quartz or Silica structure can be almost any shape or in Microsoft’s case here is shallow cube. The main reasons I’m excited about this is because of the fact that Silica or Quartz aka “glass” is cheap. Quartz or Silica are great choices as they are more durable can last for a VERY long time with no data degradation.

In fact this project is so interesting that they have dubbed the project the superman glass project because Warner Brothers (and a number of other studios) have partnered with Microsoft to start storing their large Movie Catalogues on glass to preserve the quality and the movie for all time. This is the archivist’s dream!

The benefits are clear (pun intended):

  1. Quartz or Silica is smaller. Large Data can replace film stock or piles of hard drives. sets into a small compact package.
  2. Quartz or Silica is not subject to temperature fluctuations or low temp fires (although glass can melt at lower temperatures, Quartz’s melting point is 1650 °C (3,002 °F) – Silica’s is 1710°C (3,110°F). Fires can range from 200°C to 4980°C (400°F to 9000°F) so there is protection against low temp fire outbreaks. (any other medium would be destroyed).
  3. Quartz or Silica is not subject to magnetic disturbances like hard drives or Solid State devices are. Even radiation sources like solar flares can’t hurt Quartz or Silica.
  4. Quartz is not subject to physical damage except in extreme cases. You can even scratch the surfaces and data is still readable or recoverable. Cracking can cause issues however even extreme cracking is recoverable.
  5. Quartz does not suffer bit decay or Information technology data integrity over time issues. Since you don’t rewrite or overwrite anything, the data is as good as the day it was written to the medium.
  6. Quartz or Silica storage medium costs a lot less than any other technology on the market like hard drives since they can hold more data and in Three Dimensions rather than limited platters or registered addresses on memory chips.

The downsides:

  1. It’s a write once medium, which means you can’t overwrite or change the data once you’ve written it. Akin to CDROM or DVD Write once mediums in the old days. It is an archive after all.
  2. The speed at which the Project Silica is writing the data is taking a long time however this will improve with time as the technology advances. Reading and recovery would also be slower.
  3. Microsoft is claiming that it is using an Artificial Intelligence Application (and CPU Power) to either write the data or interpret and read the data. Not clear on why this is necessary but it may have to do with the writing patterns or complexity of the data writing process or algorithms to store and retrieve the data in 3D. Only time will tell once I get more information as to why this is so. The max data for Warner Brothers appears to be 360 TB of space possible on one of the storage pieces of glass as of the article however the smaller superman glass storage was somewhere in the 78 GB size (a lot smaller).
  4. Maintaining the data structure of how the data is stored and then how to retrieve it then becomes a much larger problem if time is no longer a factor for the medium. Data may need to create a Philosophers Glass, a sort of translation matrix if you will to allow more modern systems to read the data going forward from generation of software to the next. I mean DOS programs typically don’t work in Window 10 without other software to compensate in a compatibility mode and even then, I think it only goes back to windows 98 not DOS. Try advancing that 100 years, 1000 years and you see the problem. the file system itself and how the data is etched becomes a bigger issue that the storing of the data itself.

Sounds great! Do Creators need something like this or is it just for large companies?

The short answer is yes. Yes you do. If you are a content creator, small/medium or large business, home movie, home picture, or any other home data manager whos looking to offload some older data this is interesting to you. Imagine being able to store multiple copies of your backups offsite at low cost per Terabyte (1,000 Gigabits). Quartz and certainly Silica is very cheap. The reader or writer however is another story but essentially it’s just a better laser and we have lots of those in electronics today.

One of the main pain points and problems with storing data for long periods of time is entropy. User’s collecting habits tend to end up storing a lot of information and businesses, home users and content creators run out of space constantly. That data can also become corrupted over time on older hardware or from entropy of the bits magnetic signatures. The medium ends up becoming a bottleneck to storing data for long periods of time. Some of us want to keep stuff we just don’t want to lose it to free up other stuff. This costs us an enormous amount of money trying to protect our data. Often most consumers fail at this. The Normal way to operate is to archive some of the less used data off of your primary working drive system to free of space for other more current projects. The Project Silica idea allows this to happen without entropy by keeping your data safe and retrievable (always test your backups and recovery!).

In our daily busy lives, we take so many pictures, videos documents, etc. that consume our home hard drives at record breaking speed and its not slowing down. For the small or medium business, the data needs are crushing in costs to maintain it. There is no good way to archive data today that is reliable, cost effective and ultimately indestructible and can survive everything in that list above. Most use old technology called LTO tape drives to store magnetically the information in an archive system. Some people use hard drives in expensive arrays but all of these can also deteriorate or become inoperable and must be managed. Tape is expensive, cumbersome and most times the information has to be split up between more than one tape to accommodate all of the data. Humans want a simple yet reliable way to save their data and have it be accessible in the future. They also want it not to cost them a mortgage or a fortune or have really complex data management to achieve their long term data goals.

Project Silica has the potential to change this in a very useful and dramatic way for everyone. Heck, If superman used data crystals why wouldn’t you want to?

Okay you’ve sold me, when can I buy it?

This is the catch. You can’t just yet. Microsoft hasn’t moved the technology to the mainstream yet. The article I read is from 2019 before the pandemic (see link below).

Its also unclear whether Microsoft is positioning itself to drive the technology in the consumer market or not. My guess is that yes they are thinking about adapting it eventually as the technology itself is so useful. They would want to move this to the consumer market before any competitors do.

Warner Brothers and others are slowly moving all of the old film stocks over to digital negative and storing it so that these precious images and films are available indefinitely in the future.

My best guess assumes that we are about 5 years away from a commercial product of something similar ending up on your desktop. Perhaps less than 5 years – of course the Pandemic concerns have put a stall and delay on innovation as of late.

Microsoft is doing great work here. Let’s hope they keep customers and low pricing in mind when developing it further as they have said they were going to.


Saving your data to quartz crystals or glass used to be a thing of science fiction but not anymore.

Video, Photo and data archiving could change the way we store and archive or data. The days of having to choose what to delete or risk losing due to data entropy or decay and complicated archival and storage processes could be over once this technology hits mainstream use.

I for one will be buying one of these devices as soon as I can afford or get my hands on one.

All of those precious memories must be available to future generations of my family so that they can enjoy seeing how we lived and history is preserved. Anyone who has ever owned a video or film camera from the 8mm cameras of the 60s, the VHS camcorders of the 80s and the DSLR video cameras, drones and and smartphones of today now know their data will be around longer than they are. You simply can’t trust that computing infrastructure the way it is today will be around in the future in the same way it is now so that means storing your data in a platform that can stand not only the elements and situations but time itself. Cloud computing can’t be trusted to ensure your data is there in say 50 years time because the technology is constantly changing and the people who manage your data change.

Till next time! Stay positive as best you can, Keep creating, writing and looking up!

We are definitely living in the science fiction era!

Take care!

Source: Microsoft Project Silica

Click here for Microsoft Project Silica Article



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