HD-DVD and Blu-ray are slugging it out in the market to be crowned the post-DVD king. The two blue laser-based formats are struggling for supremacy in the consumer optical disk market; that's the market that includes high definition movies and games. Blue laser optical disks can hold more, much more, then red laser ones like the CD and DVD.

The same forces are at work in the optical disk archiving market but there only one blue laser format that has established itself and that is Plasmon's Ultra Density Optical or UDO. A prominent advantage it has over either HD-DVD or Blu-ray is that it is a professional quality data archiving system with media life in the 50+ years category.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD vendors are aiming at the enterprise optical archiving market but UDO longevity should prevail although shorter life applications such as CCTV surveillance may choose the consumer optical disk formats - but image quality doesn't matter anywhere near so much in that market.

In the media world, data archiving in general is moving under two forces. One is from analogue to digital. Another, less prominent, is from tape to disk. For companies producing blue-laser optical disk content, that is, movies and/or games, a question to be asked is where the content is to be stored.

Its delivery is already decided; Blu-ray or HD-DVD. But neither are suitable for the long-term storage of master copies of the content that consumers will buy on either format. For that the alternatives, up until now, have been RAID disk arrays or magnetic tape.

RAID disk arrays don't typically have lives in the fifty year area. No hard drive technology has. That means a lot of data migration when arrays are replaced. Magnetic tape deteriorates over time and copies have to be remade, copied to a fresh cartridge, every so often, to ensure reliable storage. Transporting magnetic tape cartridges can also raise risks slightly.

A better medium would be one which you write once, can store data for a very long time without refresh copying, and which can be robust enough to be transported. That is the reasoning behind the creation of a special version of UDO - UDO DMD or digital master disk. It has a specific aim of being used for HD-DVD content mastering. It isn't intended for the archiving of hospital x-ray images or that sort of thing. UDO-DMD has been designed specifically for the secure distribution and long-term storage of high value HD DVD content between authoring studios and disc mastering facilities.

Three suppliers are behind DMD: Plasmon; Memory Tech Corporation (MTC); and Mitsubishi Kagaku Media/Verbatim (MKM/V for short).

Plasmon provides the UDO DMD drives; DMD disks cannot be read in normal UDO drives. MKM/V will produce DMD media, said to be very stable and stored in a cartridge robust enough to withstand transport knocks and bumps. The DMD media will be distributed worldwide under the Verbatim brand.

MTC will evangelise DMD globally through its presence and influence in the video content and mastering industry.

DMD is a write-once, read-many (WORM) format and has a special cartridge locking feature. These two attributes together with non-operability of the media in standard UDO drives will minimise content piracy risks.

Two generations are planned: DMD30, the initial 30GB version; and DMD60, a 60GB capacity version. These are the content capacity. There will be additional content on the disks to store AACS copy protection and encryption information.

The DMD60 format has a particular advantage, according to Shiroharu Kawasaki, president and CEO at Memory Tech: "With availability early next year, DMD60 will enable the full HD DVD content to be written on side one with the AACS encrypted version stored on side two. Consolidating all the content on a single volume will greatly simplify the long-term storage of this valuable content."

For the HD DVD content and mastering companies who may be users of DMD, Nigel Street, Plasmon's CEO had this to say: "While UDO-DMD is a new product, it is based on our already well established UDO technology ... it has a very successful track record in professional archive environments that demand content authenticity and longevity. The optimised features that we have added to UDO-DMD will provide the HD DVD content industry with an already proven technology that has the capabilities needed to address the industry's unique business requirements."

Concerning the robustness and reliability of the media Dr. Hidemi Yoshida, CTO at MKM, said: "DMD is a professional quality media that MKM manufactures to exacting standards and encloses in a shock resistant, anti-static cartridge. As a non-magnetic, Phase Change recording technology, it is immune to damage from magnetic field and x-ray exposure and can be safely stored in a very wide range of temperature and humidity conditions. This stability also means that DMD provides a data life of over 50 years which is ideal for this application where content can be recalled for re-mastering over many years."

UDO 3 and 4 will feature 120GB and 240GB capacities. So we might imagine that future DMD formats may follow the same path.