Sony Optical Disc Archive (ODA) can challenge LTO with its significant workflow and performance advantagesFriday, June 5, 2015 12:00 AM
WTS workflow specialist Michael Byrne takes a look at Sony's Optical Disc Archive (ODA) system - and finds it can offer significant benefits over LTO in workflow and performance, as well as reliability and longevity.
I admit I was pretty sceptical when Sony first announced its Optical Disc Archive technology.
ODA seemed too expensive, and, in LTO, was taking on a rival that was too well established in the industry. A spinning disc architecture did not look like the long-term future to me. Surely we should have been moving to solid state by now?
And I also admit that I may have been too quick to judge, having sat in on a Sony technology preview of the next generation of ODA (due later this year) at April’s NAB 2015 in Las Vegas.
How cost effective is ODA?
The cost of ODA media and ODA drives has dramatically decreased, while media capacity has increased, closing the gap to LTO cost-wise. But it’s ODA’s workflow and performance superiority that really adds significant value.
In terms of pure cost per gigabyte, LTO still holds the edge. But a recent manufacturing partnership with Panasonic (and others to come) has brought considerable cost reductions for ODA media, and will bring more in future – Optical Disc Archive technology is expected to have a lower material cost, and environmental impact, once economies of scale start to apply.
Improved reliability and very long life span of ODA
In its design, ODA offers greater reliability, with no tape stretch and no physical contact with the recording surface, which is permanently sealed away from atmospheric conditions behind the polymer layers.
The technology also guarantees superior longevity, with no requirement for migration between generations. In fact, Sony guarantees that in 50 years, not only will your media still be fine, it will be readable and writeable in the then-current generation of drive. This means a massive reduction in cost for media, devices and labour over the potential life of your data.
While you may not need to retain your data for quite as long as 50 years, I often think that its purely down to cost and other restrictions that businesses see little value in archiving content beyond the current expectation of five to 10 years. The video content you create has the potential to generate income indefinitely, and ODA potentially offers a secure and accessible option for managing and monetising that content over decades, not years.
Sony's Optical Disc Archive offers performance and workflow benefits versus LTO
What I've covered so far looks at ODA purely as a deep long-term archive technology. If that’s all you were going to use ODA for, you’d be forgiven for being reluctant to commit to a relatively new format or for deciding against migrating an entire existing archive.
But it’s the performance and workflow advantages that ODA holds over LTO that make it – in my opinion at least – easily superior not just for long-term archiving but also for near-line, transfer and off-site replication.
Direct, random access to data stored across the physical disc reduces seek-time to a fraction of LTO. Four lasers on each side of the disc (Gen2) allow for high-speed writing and simultaneous read verification of data, or 2x speed writing without verification. ODA’s raw performance for sequential read and write exceeds that of LTO.
Think of ODA as a hard disk drive. With ODA, particularly with the library devices, you no longer need that low cost, near-line hard drive storage sitting between your online and archive. You can also look at ODA to reduce usage of Firewire/USB drives for transfer and temporary data back-up.
ODA allows for simple, operating system-level, reading and writing of data at performance levels sufficient for the playback and recording of HD video content. Using a suitable, low-cost MAM (Sony’s forthcoming Mini MAM looks both impressive and affordable), digital assets can be stored, tracked and maintained in a near-line state and accessed as often as required, with minimal latency compared to LTO.
So an in-house or off-site ODA library could easily serve as a data replication and disaster recovery point, providing near-instant access to assets in the event of a catastrophic failure of a business’s online storage.
There are reasons why you may not be able to do this with LTO, even if LTFS and increased generational performance make it technically feasible. There are limits on the number of times the tape can be physically touched by the drive head before damaging it. Constant tension in the tape can cause it to stretch and snap. The time to seek data across the tape exacerbates these problems while decreasing workflow efficiency.
ODA is a single location solution for sharing and monetising assets
For facilities, big or small, wishing to share and monetise their digital asset library, ODA offers a single location and mechanism for storing data that allows for frequent random access on demand, without the need for additional caching and management layers. When specified correctly, it can serve as both a near-line and long-term archive medium, reducing infrastructure costs and complexity and improving workflow efficiency and flexibility.
For truly long-term archive, ODA is undeniably a more reliable format and, assuming Sony keep making the drives, simplifies data retention policies significantly. With the shift in focus away from long-term archiving and onto performance and workflow benefits, the Sony Optical Disc Archive story reads a lot more interestingly.