Microsoft's Project Silica: Glass Storage Resists Ransomware for Azure

Microsoft’s Project Silica: Glass Storage Resists Ransomware for Azure

Microsoft is inching closer to a long-awaited storage breakthrough – glass-based data centers that could finally make ransomware attacks impossible for cloud users. But only Azure customers stand to benefit.

In a new research paper, Microsoft outlined its progress on durable quartz glass storage units primed for cloud environments, meaning Azure data centers specifically. Dubbed Project Silica, it’s a concept the company first teased back in 2019 and has steadily advanced since.

The glass storage approach works remarkably similar to ceramic-based tech being pursued by startup Cerabyte. Data is inscribed onto glass platters using ultrafast lasers to create tiny permanent structural changes called voxels. These voxels encode data across hundreds of layers stacked vertically throughout the glass.

To retrieve data, polarization microscopy scans and images the layers in a Z-pattern, converting the analog optical signals into digital data using machine learning models.

The medium shows promise for industries like healthcare and finance that handle sensitive data, since glass-based cloud storage could help resist ransomware aimed at deleted files. The data etched into the physical glass would remain intact.

For now though, only Microsoft Azure customers stand to benefit as the company determines optimal configurations for its cloud data centers. Rival platforms like AWS or Google Cloud aren’t likely to gain access to the glass tech anytime soon.

So while the breakthrough could one day spread more widely, Microsoft is still in the pilot phase, focused strictly on enhancing Azure. But if Project Silica reaches fruition, it could finally make ransomware assaults on cloud data a thing of the past – at least for Azure enterprise customers. Widespread adoption though remains years down the line.