Folio Photonics hires engineering VP

Moving the pace of its optical archive technology up a notch, Folio Photonics has hired an engineering VP to build its first commercial product.

Folio Photonics has developed a low-cost extruded and multiply folded optical data recording medium with up to 32 layers. The first generation disk will hold 500GB to 1TB of data and several disks could be mounted in a cartridge. It has proved its technology works in the lab and now has to build an optical archive drive with a pickup device, a read-write head and associated disk handling electronics, and mechanical gear.

Greg Kittilson has been appointed to do this, and he said in a statement: “I look forward to leveraging my industry knowledge and technical expertise to drive the productization of Folio’s next-generation optical technology – and providing the data storage industry with revolutionizing active archive offerings.”

Greg Kittilson, Folio Photonics
Greg Kittilson

Kittilson worked many years at Seagate Technology, initially as drive core team leader, where he and his team delivered the first 2.5-inch gaming drive for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the first automotive drive, and the first hybrid drive (named one of the 25 most innovative products of 2008 by PC World). He became Seagate’s senior director for CORTX Object Storage Data Path development and, most recently, its PMO director for Lyve Cloud Engineering.

He came into Seagate via its $694m Dot Hill acquisition where he led a team that defined and delivered a storage architecture centered on a RAID Companion Processor ASIC for entry-level storage arrays.

Kittilson’s skill set includes functional areas of servo development, electrical engineering and software engineering, all relevant to an optical storage drive.

Folio Photonics has been awarded a US patent, 11456010, filed in June 2020, covering the “Systems and Methods for Increasing Data Rate and Storage Density in Multi-layer Optical Discs.” The patent “relates to systems and methods, e.g. optical apparatuses, for digital optical information storage systems that improve the speed, storage density, as well as signal to noise and controllability for fluorescent and reflective single and multilayer or otherwise 3-dimensional optical data storage media.”

It notes: “When reading optical signals from a fluorescent optical storage medium either for interpreting data or effecting servo control at high speed, the finite fluorescence emission lifetime of an emissive species can limit the read speed. In some cases, the emission lifetime is longer than the residence time of the focused excitation spot on a single data mark. This can cause the fluorescent signal (fluorescent tail) from previously excited areas within the FOV [field of view] of the detection optics to confound detection of the single data mark. This can lead to intersymbol crosstalk and a reduction in signal to noise.”

Folio Photonics’ technology limits this by reading data from a precisely focused location in the multi-layer disk through a pinhole, thus excluding crosstalk and noise from nearby locations in the storage medium.

The inventions protected under this patent deliver the improved performance and ease of management of Folio Photonics’ multi-layer optical disc storage technology. In addition, enhanced signal strength relative to background noise will lead to higher throughput, lower latency, and increased performance. On top of that, they will allow the storage capacity potential of a Folio Photonics disc to dramatically increase.

CEO Steve Santamaria said: “This patent plays a key role in enabling Folio Photonics’ optical media to be used for data storage. This novel design and detection method will act as the basis for our optical pickup unit, which reads and writes data marks to our multi-layer media as part of the optical disc drive. Subsequently, by enabling end-users to use our storage media in this way, the patent allows for significant gains across cost-efficiency, accessibility, ease of deployment and archival duration period, which is essentially now in perpetuity.

“It is by no means an understatement to say that designing a new optical pickup unit to work with nontraditional multi-layer media is the hardest part of new optical storage development, aside from creating the new media itself. Not only have we patented this design and its application, but we have also brought it to life on our optics bench. We have demonstrated this approach’s validity as it greatly contributed to our achieving reading/writing data to all layers of our disc.”

Kittilson and his team now have to build a commercial device based on the optical bench work and thus enable optical cartridge data archiving with better-than-tape characteristics.