Magnus data: Universities establish £8.1 million storage exploration facility

Two UK universities have set up an £8.1 million facility to explore the capacity of storage devices.

The University of Glasgow and Queen's University of Belfast, along with 12 industry partners, will create a training centre aimed at versing 50 PhD students in integrative photonics and its effect on information processing and data storage.

The initiative will hopefully make a significant addition to the field of photonic integration, exploring optical components such as lasers, modulators and multiplexers, and how they can be used to improve data storage efficiency.

During their studies, students will spend time at both universities, and within industry.

With what's probably the least catchy organisation name in history, the Centre for Doctoral Training in Photonic Integration for Advanced Data Storage aims to create a commercially-viable photonic integration technology that should facilitate an easier data to disk writing, and in turn increase storage capacity.

Currently, the universities believe that heat-assisted magnetic recording will provide a significant increase in storage capability. This electromagnetic process heats the disk to ease the writing of data.

Professor John March, head of the University of Glasgow school of engineering, said how this advancement will have a profound effect on the IT industry, what with mobile, cloud and big data trends and their constant demand for effective storage devices.

"While much of personal computing and related electronic devices are moving to SSD, there is still increasing need for [hard disk drives] HDD in personal usage in the form of back-up drives, personal TV systems and video recorders," said March.

"The biggest growth sector is in... cloud computing, where data is stored remotely. Already, almost all of e-commerce and the internet rely entirely on data farms filled with large numbers of 'server' computers and these use HDDs to store commercial and personal information – everything from bank details to social media."

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Figures suggest that "the cloud" will account for more than 60 per cent of all digital storage 2020 – a shift driven by the use of mobile devices.

"A server is needed for every 600 smartphones or 120 tablet computers, which means that HDDs of increasing capacity are required."