Long Term Data Storage (>1,000 Years)

Wolfgang Gruener over at TGDaily.Com had an interesting article a few months ago about researchers putting together a solution to preserve data for >1,000 years. Researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz call their networked-based system Pergamum,

Pergamum, named after the ancient Greek library that made the transition from fragile papyrus to more durable parchment, is designed as a distributed network of individually fully functional network storage devices. Compared to current MAIDs (Massive Arrays of Idle Disks), NAND flash memory (described as on-volatile random access memory – NVRAM) within the project has been added to each node with the purpose to store data signatures, metadata, and other small items, allowing deferred writes, metadata requests and inter-disk data verification to be performed while the disk is powered off. Since the NVRAM can run frequent searches without the need to spin up a hard drive, the disk media can remain powered down more often, effectively reducing wear as well as the power consumption of a MAID.

. . .

In a simulation that uses 1 TB hard drives in a 10 PB Pergamum system structured with three inter-disk parity segments per 16-disk reliability group and 3 intra-disk parity blocks per segment, the estimated reliability came up at a MTTDL of 1.25×107 hours, or about 1400 years. Of course, that is just an estimate. But this estimate is far beyond of what we have heard so far and certainly the first true long-term storage idea we have come across.

Well, I’m not sure 1,400 years is all that long.

Its still a controversial hypothesis, but there are marks on tortoise shells found in China that date to 6,600 BCE that may be the oldest know example of human writing (the debate is whether or not the marks constitute something complex enough to be described as writing). So in the best-case scenario, we may have written words that have survived 8,600 years.

It would be nice to push digital data to at least 10,000 years. But that’s just a start. Overall, we know the past 10,000 years have been relatively benign for human beings on the Earth. We know of catastrophes in our recent past, however, such as the eruption of the Toba volcano that may have come close to wiping out early humans (just how far the population fell after the eruption is still hotly debated).

Personally, what I want is a system that can last at least 100,000 years through potential catastrophes such as another “supervolcano” eruption.

Then we can start about extending that to really long time periods.

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