One area of technology that never ceases to amaze me is storage. Despite the extreme complications in increasing densities, it continues to happen, and while at one point an 8GB mechanical hard drive seemed incredible, 4,000GB models are easily found today (with 5,000GB models on the way). When looking at "small" storage products, the increases can be even more impressive. Just a couple of weeks ago, SanDisk announced a 128GB microSDXC card; if you were to cover a CD case with these, that'd be about 15TB in storage, and all at 1mm thick. It's almost ridiculous, when you think about it.
While mechanical and flash storage has seen some serious gains over the years, optical storage admittedly has seemed stagnant. When Blu-ray hit the market, 50GB discs seemed largely impressive, but given the affordable prices of hard drives in comparison (even when considering RAID), very few people actually make use of them today.
For those who prefer to store their data on something a little less accident prone than mechanical storage, though, optical media has continued to serve a purpose. After all, optical media isn't going to break that easily if dropped to the floor (assuming it's in its case), whereas that'd likely be an effective "good bye" to a mechanical hard drive. Still, with such limited densities, optical has limited use; but fortunately, with a new joint venture between Sony and Panasonic (co-creators of Blu-ray), there is a bright future.
As its name implies, "Archival Disc" is write-once media, and it features a double-sided design. It's not something that Sony and Panasonic are merely announcing with no plans to release: We can expect the first iteration to hit the market next summer. At that time, 300GB will be the density offered, and both companies believe that technology will allow them to commit to 500GB and 1TB discs.
Assuming that these discs would be equal thickness to standard CDs, a stack of 22 would match the thickness of a standard mechanical drive, and at 300GB per, that'd be about 6.6TB. That's undoubtedly impressive for its volume, and it would become incredible if 500GB and 1TB discs were used in the equation.
Interestingly, this announcement doesn't make mention of expected life for these discs, which is a bit strange given that they're targeted at archiving. General perks are mentioned, however: optical discs have excellent properties to protect themselves against the environment, such as dust-resistance and water-resistance, and can also withstand changes in temperature and humidity when stored. They also allow inter-generational compatibility between different formats, ensuring that data can continue to be read even as formats evolve. This makes them robust media for long-term storage of content.
I look forward to seeing the pricing on these discs, or perhaps more so, the pricing of their recorders. Something tells me these will be big boy toys for quite some time.