Panasonic Intros Cold Storage Tech Born at Facebook Data Centers

Panasonic and Facebook have created a commercial cold-storage technology for storing rarely accessed data for prolonged periods of time cheaply.

The storage system, based on technology Facebook created to address the ballooning costs of storing all of the photos its users upload to the social network, uses a new type of optical disc Panasonic calls Archival Disc. It is the second-generation medium to the Blu-ray discs Facebook currently has in its cold-storage data centers.

Unveiling its Freeze-Ray system, Panasonic emerged as a cold storage competitor to Sony, which last year acquired a Facebook spinoff that was working to commercialize Blu-ray-based cold storage technology.

That startup, called Optical Archive, was founded by Frank Frankovsky, a former Facebook infrastructure and supply-chain head who played a key role in shaping the way the company designs and procures its data center infrastructure. For several years, Frankovsky was also the human face of the Open Compute Project, Facebook’s open source data center and hardware design initiative.

Facebook has built separate facilities specifically for cold storage at its data center campuses in Prineville, Oregon, and Forest City, North Carolina. They have simpler, less redundant infrastructure than the primary data centers and cut the amount of energy needed to store old user data by 75 percent, the company’s engineers said last year.

Storage capacity of Panasonic’s single Archival Disc is 300GB – three times the capacity of Blu-ray discs that store old Facebook photos in the social network’s cold storage data centers, Panasonic said. Facebook will be deploying the new systems later this year, according to the announcement.

“As Facebook continues to grow, we needed to address some of our fundamental engineering challenges with an efficient, low-cost and sustainable solution that matches our speed and exabyte-scale of data,” Jason Taylor, Facebook’s VP of infrastructure, said in a statement. “We’re seeing exponential growth in the number of photos and videos being uploaded to Facebook, and the work we’ve done with Panasonic is exciting because optical storage introduces a medium that is immutable, which helps ensure that people have long-term access to their digital memories.”

The companies said they will continue working together to create next-generation 500GB Archival Discs, followed by 1TB discs that will enable a data center operator like Facebook to deploy multi-petabyte cold storage systems.