Archival Quality

This Amazon Storage Facility Will Probably Outlive Us All

Long, long-term backup.
 This Amazon Storage Facility Will Probably Outlive Us All

Never going awaaaay. (Photo: flickr.com/oreilly)

Digital data sure might feel ephemeral, but two big are companies doing their part to make sure everything gets backed up, forever. Last week, Facebook let slip some details about “Sub-Zero,” the company’s planned facility for long-term data storage. And today, Amazon debuted its “Glacier” service, which Ars Technica describes as “a data archival service that will store data for one penny per gigabyte per month.”

That sounds like a pretty good deal, but before you open an account and start backing up your iTunes library, you should probably know that this isn’t exactly normal cloud computing. It’ll take hours to retrive any data stored with the service. This is only for truly long-term archiving. Think data meant to last for centuries. 

Ars Technica explains:

Glacier is designed to last for a long time, but is slow: accessing data will take three to five hours. Amazon hasn’t detailed exactly what technology is storing the data, but massive tape libraries are a good bet given the lengthy retrieval windows…. An Amazon statement sent to Ars says only that “Glacier is built from inexpensive commodity hardware components,” and is “designed to be hardware-agnostic, so that savings can be captured as Amazon continues to drive down infrastructure costs.”

Use cases outlined include archiving media assets (no more lost-and-found masterpieces like Metropolis!) and archiving research and scientific data (never lose your notes in a fire like tragic science hero Nikola Tesla!).

It’s hard not to imagine a massive bunker forgotten in the wake of some Hunger Games-style catastrophe, lying silent except for the whirring of the cooling systems and the shuffling footsteps of a slightly wild-eyed caretaker.

Actually, that sounds familiar. It sounds like Amazon CEO’s $42 million Clock of the Long Now project, designed to keep time on a thousand-year scale. In a recent Wall Street Journal piece on the timepiece, a former Amazon exec told the paper that Mr. Bezos “thinks in decades and centuries…Unlike most of us, Jeff is hard-wired for the very long term.”

Dude must be a torturously slow chess player.

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