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From the console to the data centre?

Simon Sharwood

Sony is keen for you to understand that the most important feature of Blu-Ray, its contender as a successor for DVD, is the wonderfully crisp picture it will provide should you chose to watch 'Spiderman 3' in the new format, or the stunning graphics it will deliver from inside a PlayStation 3.

Toshiba, likewise, is promoting its HD-DVD format as an entertainment medium. Hyped as "A defining moment in home entertainment," thanks to its ability to bring HDTV to life, HD-DVD is also out there competing for consumers' eyeballs and disposable incomes.

Both camps, however, are currently somewhat less prone to hyperbole about the data storage potential of either medium, despite their more-than-respectable credentials.

Indeed, both formats are much better data storage targets than DVD, which boasts just 8.5GB capacity and delivers data at 11 megabits per second.

Blu-Ray boasts native capacity of 25GB. That doubles on dual-layer disks. Data transfer is a more-than-useful 54 megabits per second.

HD-DVD is a touch smaller and touch slower, with 30GB for dual-layer disks its storage ceiling and a tick over 36 megabits per second transfer speeds.

Both standards also offer re-writable disks. Blu-Ray's BD-R can be written once, as can HD-DVD-R disks. BD-RE and HD-DVD-RW can each be written to multiple times. TDK even asserts that the quality of its BD-RE disks is such that they can sustain 10,000 writing operations.

Yet when it comes to writing data, both disks' credibility falters a little as the media inside each platter can only be spun so fast and still retain the ability to capture data. Slow write times are the result, calling into question whether either can assume a meaningful role as a nearline medium when fast input and are required.

Both standards will, however, soon accelerate well beyond today's storage capacities. Future iterations of each are already on the drawing board and hint at greater capacity and faster access speeds. Blu-Ray even envisions eight-layer disks packing 200 gigabytes of data onto a single 12cm platter.

Throw in the fact that Blu-Ray even includes a nifty new anti-scratch layer that Sony calls AccuCORE, which is said to extend the life of Blu-Ray disks by protecting them from the rough and tumble of everyday life, and the two new media offer an interesting prospect to storage professionals.

"SonyBlu-Ray disks include added protection against data corruption and physical damage, enhanced data stability, greater temperature adaptability and longer media lifespan," says Vincent Bautista, Product Manager for Data Storage at Sony Australia. "These are all very important for the protection of important business data."

And indeed they are.

But feature lists alone never made a product viable. So do HD-DVD and Blu-Ray stack up as business storage tools?

Tomorrow: Can you use HD-DVD and Blu-Ray in your data centre?