In the next few months a new generation of optical storage devices using UDO (ultra density optical) will come on the market, and if you back up large datasets to optical disk, then you should start paying attention.

The first generation will offer 30GB of storage in a 5.25-in. form factor cartridge with succeeding generations offering up to 120GB by 2007.

Although most of the early attention is centered on write-once UDO products for archival use, UDO will be available with rewritable media. The write-once and rewritable media will work in the same drives.

While UDO is not backwards compatible with existing optical media, the drives and the cartridges will be physically compatible with 5.25" MO drives, making it easy to integrate UDO into libraries and jukeboxes.

The technology relies on short-wavelength blue lasers to pack information more densely onto the disk. The UDO standard was developed by

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Plasmon, HP and Sony both for storage applications and as a next-generation replacement for consumer DVD. One of the reasons for the 30GB capacity of the first generation is to let UDO disks store a movie in high-definition televison format.

While the combination of cost, estimated at $2 per GB of storage, and 30 GB capacity means that UDO probably won't make companies throw out their tape drives, it should be quite popular with the ones that currently use optical storage for backup or archival storage. If that includes you, then you should take a look at these new devices.

Plasmon has a fair amount of information on UDO, including a white paper (free on registration), on its Web site.

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

This was first published in October 2002

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