Microsoft’s Project Silica aims to create a cloud-scale storage system designed and built from the media up to service cloud workloads. Recent discoveries at Southampton University on how to use ultrafast lasers to store data in quartz glass  is the starting point. Using femtosecond lasers provides the raw ability to control the formation of nano-gratings in the silica (which we call voxels), and this forms the basis on which we build Project Silica. Collaborating with Southampton University, we aim to understand the process of controlling the formation of voxels, to enable us to encode multiple bits per voxel.
To build a full storage system, we need to address multiple challenges at each layer, from taming the writing of voxels, to understanding how to efficiently read the voxels in the glass, and ultimately how to build a cloud-scale storage system that can exploit the unique properties of storing data in silica and can service a cloud workload. This creates an incredibly exciting opportunity to challenge and completely re-think traditional storage system design, and to co-design the future media, hardware and software infrastructure for the cloud.
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