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Recording to Holographic Media

Reading from Holographic Media
InPhase has packed 515Gb in a square inch of holographic media and plans 300GB drives and media later this year

A story on is reporting that InPhase Technologies, a company focused on holographic storage, has produced a medium capable of holding 515Gb of data per square inch which overshadows the capacity of the highest density magnetic platters currently in production. InPhase was a big hit at this year's CES when they demonstrated its holographic storage prototypes and showed off the various media options but said that initial products will only use the red laser, as opposed to blue and green, for reasons of cost.

Holographic storage has been a topic of strong conversation in the storage community for a few years now since the need for alternative recording methods has become more apparent. Magnetic recording methods are approaching their physical limits because of the superparamagnetism phenomenon. Superparamagnetism occurs when the magnetic bits of data on magnetic media, such as hard disk drives, are placed so close together that they disrupt each others' "on/off" state, corrupting the data and making the media unreadable.

To buy some time, a new method of magnetic recording has been introduced in the last few years which is known as perpendicular magnetic recording, or PMR. Using PMR heads, bits are written perpendicular to the hard disk platter rather than laying them down parallel or horizontally. This method ultimately conserves surface area and effectively increases the storage density without the occurrence of superparamagnetism. However, there is a limit to this method as well.

This is where holographic storage comes in with the ability to store more than a terabyte of data on a single piece of media. Holographic media can be manufactured in various shapes, sizes, and thickness. This non-standard approach is possible because of the way data can be written to it. According to

Densities in holography are achieved by different factors than magnetic storage. Density depends on the number of pixels/bits in a page of data; the number of pages that are stored in a particular volumetric location; the dynamic range of the recording material; the thickness of the material, and the wavelength of the recording laser.

The first product will most likely be a 300GB disk with a transfer rate of 20MB/sec however the second wave of holographic media will range from 800GB to 1.6TB capacities. Currently, to achieve 1.6TB of capacity we would need 4x400GB hard disk drives in a RAID 0 array which does not come cheap. Pricing on the holographic storage medium has not been announced but since it is a new technology, we can expect prices to be expensive.

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Sounds promising...
By d33pblue on 3/27/2006 6:27:00 PM , Rating: 3
But a couple concerns...

1. 20MB/s transfer rate - thats pretty slow for a hard drive. I own a secure digital flash card that is almost that fast. Unless the stated 20MB/s drive was super cheap or super high in capacity, I dont see it being worth it.

2. Price - Unless they can substantially undercut the price of magnetic media, there will be absolutely zero motivation to buy the 300GB drive. The 800GB-1.6TB drives will be much more interesting though if they can bring it in at around 50 cents per gig.

RE: Sounds promising...
By randomlinh on 3/27/2006 7:39:54 PM , Rating: 2
I dunno, if the price gets to the right point, it might make for a very nice backup method. kind of an alternative method... but of course, being new technology, proving it's reliability in the future.. who knows. I can't trust DVD media now even.

RE: Sounds promising...
By lemonadesoda on 3/27/2006 7:52:20 PM , Rating: 5

This is a high density storage medium (data) not boot media (OS). Just compare those read/write rates with CD or DVD or tape. This speed is amazing. In fact, I'll be surprised if they achieve anything like that.

Quite honestly, if used as a network storage device, the speed doesn't need to be greater than local ethernet speed.

Perfect for home media centre. Perfect for corporate backups.

RE: Sounds promising...
By segagenesis on 3/27/2006 8:39:56 PM , Rating: 2
I'm still skeptical. I remember seeing experimentations in this form of storage over 10 years ago where they did nearly the same thing, except it was ridicuously expensive. Since then it feels like a continuation of smoke and mirrors (no pun intended) so I'm not holding my breath... yet.

RE: Sounds promising...
By mpc7488 on 3/28/2006 10:15:22 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. I invested in a few stocks of a company doing this exact same thing about 6 years ago now, and while they had some promising press releases they couldn't make the technology go anywhere. I'll get excited when there is released, commercialized hardware at a reasonable pricepoint.

RE: Sounds promising...
By covertbit on 3/27/2006 8:53:42 PM , Rating: 2
I honestly don't think that corporate backups would not benefit from this at a transfer rate of 20MBps. Unless you can get near SCSI performance out of these, they will not make sense when a tape drive would be able to outperform this. Sure the space is there, that is great. Without the speed, its a dump truck with a 4 stroke 2 cyl. engine.

RE: Sounds promising...
By Hypernova on 3/27/2006 9:26:18 PM , Rating: 2
Compared to tapes this is a god send for people who got multy terabytes of stuff to back up. Right now the disk are at 100$ each but that just for now. GB/$$ is gonna be dirt cheap when they reach 1.6TB a disk.

Remember for data archives space is king.

RE: Sounds promising...
By Johnmcl7 on 3/28/2006 5:28:56 AM , Rating: 2
If it can actually sustain 20MB/s, then that seems good to me - I currently back up using SDLT320 tape drives, it's a 15 slot tape loader connected to the server running Backup over SCSI and backing up around ten servers over a gigabit network. The average speed of the job is 500MB/min which is slower than the 20MB/s quited here although I'm thinking I've picked up something wrong here...

I'm not a fan of tapes but right now there's simply nothing to replace them, I'm interested in this holographic storage to see if it can genuinely replace tape once and for all.


RE: Sounds promising...
By lemonadesoda on 3/28/2006 12:47:54 PM , Rating: 2
Have you done your research? Can I help with the math here?

The best tape drives can read/write between 10GB and 100GB PER HOUR. That equates to somewhere between 2 and 20MB/sec. i.e. NOT FASTER than the quoted rates for this new technology.

And, BTW, the top end tape drives that can achieve 20MB/sec typically cost USD 8,000-15,000!!! Wow.

I can't agree with you that it is a...
...dump truck with a 4 stroke 2 cyl. engine

RE: Sounds promising...
By kgouldsk on 3/28/2006 5:33:05 PM , Rating: 2

LTO-3 = 80 to 160 MByte/SECOND.

I agree this has a lot of potential due to the parallel transfer capability, and it's young and will progress quickly once it starts. But it has a lot of catching up to do to meet current xfer rates. Now....random SEEK into that much volume - that's a different story.

RE: Sounds promising...
By lemonadesoda on 3/28/2006 7:38:34 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the correction. However, the LTO-3 marketing info I've seen states a maximum of 300GB per hour and assuming 2:1 compression . This equates to 40MB/sec native. Still very very impressive.

Perhaps your data was a tape-drive array, not a single unit?

Why the slow transfer rate?
By AppaYipYip on 3/27/2006 6:56:23 PM , Rating: 2
I'm curious why the transfer rate is so slow? 20MB/sec? No thanks....

RE: Why the slow transfer rate?
By SoylentG on 3/27/2006 9:25:25 PM , Rating: 2
20MB/sec is fantastic, given the total capacity...Don't CDs burn around 7-8MB/sec?

RE: Why the slow transfer rate?
By Alaa on 3/28/2006 2:32:30 AM , Rating: 2
maybe its better to use them as removable drives as they r faster than CD/DVD?

RE: Why the slow transfer rate?
By Wwhat on 3/27/06, Rating: 0
RE: Why the slow transfer rate?
By BrownTown on 3/28/2006 1:14:01 AM , Rating: 5
wow, you people are being pretty harsh, whenenver a new technology comes out it isn't immediatly economically viable at first. The fact that a new technology is even close to the same place as magnetic media is amazing given the decades of advances and billions of dollars poured into the magnetic media industry. Give this new tech some time and it has a good chance of becoming economically viable. I know this is something that people have been talking about for awhile now, but that how new tech works, someone write a theoreticall piece on how to improve something, then others do research, money gets invested by companies, and after many many years a new technology might develop. I remember when DVD players were crazy expensive and only for the rich, but as the technology catches on it becomes cheaper. Of course now you can go in WallMArt and get a 30$ DVD player, the same will be true for this new technology in a few years. So nobodys forcing you to buy one now, but you should recognize the potential here.

By zsdersw on 3/27/2006 9:42:38 PM , Rating: 5
It's really quite simple. Something new comes out that has the potential to be an alternative to hard drives (not necessarily this technology, mind you, but others that have come about) and right away people start talking about why it can't work or about why it won't work, as if the designers and creators (not to mention the audience of DailyTech) are somehow unaware of the challenges and obstacles.

I guess we should forget about ever replacing the hard drive as we know it. Oh wait, I'm sorry.. many of you already have. You'll all be perfectly content with your 30-years-from-now computers using essentially unchanged hard drive technology.

Fortunately, the people responsible for these innovations aren't so easily discouraged by obstacles and challenges.

RE: Pointless
By Eris23007 on 3/28/2006 2:23:34 PM , Rating: 3
Let me start by saying I quite agree with you on the whole - we should not be discouraged by challenges, obstacles, etc., and it is essential to keep driving technology forward.

However, I would also like to point out that it is entirely appropriate for an engineer to take a considered, objective look at the downsides of any new technology. Critical thinking is an essential skill for a good engineer and should be encouraged, generally speaking.

The thing is, though, in this case after applying said critical thinking, I still believe this technology to be a major advance, and very exciting. I think it is wonderful news that the FIRST GENERATION of the product is quoting speeds of 20MB/s. I consider the chances of the rates topping out at 20MB/s to be slim - remember that the first version of the SCSI supported a max transfer rate of 5MB/s in 1986, and none of the drives on the market could support such rates. I suspect they'll figure out ways to make this technology competitive with hard disks in short order.

Another interesting question: is this 20MB/s burst or 20MB/s sustained? The characteristics of this system might just be such that random seek is no longer a speed issue - since you don't have to move a drive head and spin a disk to find randomly-placed information, sustained and burst might be the same -- or they might not. Just more interesting items for discussion...

RE: Pointless
By zsdersw on 3/28/2006 8:05:54 PM , Rating: 2
However, I would also like to point out that it is entirely appropriate for an engineer to take a considered, objective look at the downsides of any new technology. Critical thinking is an essential skill for a good engineer and should be encouraged, generally speaking.

Of course, but unless you're postulating that a majority of the people who post here are bona fide engineers.. your point, although obviously true, isn't particularly relevant.

I still am not a huge fan of it
By thecoolnessrune on 3/28/2006 4:33:12 PM , Rating: 2
In the end, I would take a non moving part media (ie solid state) over more optical or magnetic media.

RE: I still am not a huge fan of it
By lemonadesoda on 3/28/2006 6:29:09 PM , Rating: 2
Are you suggesting backing up your server to your USB key disk? Or would you put archive data (e.g. corporate records) to be stored, for say, 10 years, on a flash stick without power?

(remember that non-volatile is a relative term, reflecting the common consumer use of the non-mission critical data, like your digital photos, or your music collection).

The problems with flash are:

1./ Price. Outrageously expensive for data archiving. May be OK for "consumer" pocket devices.
2./ Data retention. Technical issue: the life of an electron charging the "floating gate" has a life of, on average, 10 years. When exactly will bits, bytes, or blocks of your data get lost without auxiliary power (and refresh)? You may be OK for a few months, even years, but at some point (4, 5, 6 years maybe) you will suffer catastrophic failure of the device.
3./ Data endurance. Technical issue: most newer flash parts can survive 100,000 erase or write cycles before errors become very common. While better than earlier devices, just 10,000 cycles, flash is only really practical as a read many, write few medium.


1GB flash is approx USD 50. That means a typical server backup of, say, 400GB, would cost you USD 50 x 400 = USD 20,000

A 400GB tape would cost you less than USD 50.

And you say you prefer to use flash! Either you are out of your mind, or obviously one hell of a wealthy guy!

By quickquest88 on 3/28/2006 6:43:27 PM , Rating: 3
And let's not forget that ANY type of magnetic drive will be vulnerable to EMP!! Optical holographic is not, or should not be vulnerable, except to physical destruction.

So a high dollar Flash drive could be killed by a magnetic field.

I can see the bonus for using this for mission-critical units first, then trickle down to us normal users.

Media.... ?
By BillyBatson on 3/27/2006 6:16:30 PM , Rating: 2
What sort of media will this me? Since it is using a laser like cd's/dvd's does this mean it iwll look like a CD and spin? Is it possible to create square or cube media (ie. star trek)? Also since it is using a laser does this mean there will be moving parts? if so will the media have to move, the laser have to move, or both (ie dvd's)???

RE: Media.... ?
By MrCoyote on 4/3/2006 8:03:21 PM , Rating: 2
[b]IBM's Holographic Cube - Holographic Data Storage Systems (HDSS)[/b]

Optware FAQs
By dubiousd on 3/28/2006 11:25:08 AM , Rating: 2
Found this in the Optware FAQ section:

When will the drive for consumer be released?
It will be after 2008.

RE: Optware FAQs
By lemonadesoda on 3/28/2006 1:02:21 PM , Rating: 2
When will the drive for consumer be released? It will be after 2008

Is that before or after blu-ray? LOL

Jokes aside, if they can get the techology to consumers within 2 years thats pretty good. It has taken that for other media (e.g. CD writers, DVD writers, flash ram devices, etc). Note that there is no point bringing this to the "consumer market" until the price point is right.

Now that's good... the indication is for a consumer acceptable price point in 2 years time. I guess that would be somewhere in the region USD 400-600? If initial launch prices are 5x-10x for specialist corporate market, that would still be cheaper than top-end tape drives.

By shabby on 3/27/06, Rating: 0
RE: ...
By jkresh on 3/28/2006 2:48:52 PM , Rating: 2
Last I saw the drives are going to be about $10000 to start and the 300gb discs will be $100 each.

By neihrick on 3/27/2006 9:49:21 PM , Rating: 2
inphase is more or less catoring to the industrial grade buyers, optware is a more consumer friendly solution.< /a>

Multimedia PC for Playing DVD's
By Cypherdude1 on 3/28/2006 5:22:53 AM , Rating: 2
I play DVD's only on my PC. Because I have 3 HDD's, drive noise can be a problem. Also, using the Windows Power Saving feature can be tricky. Since, sometimes the drives will spin back up. With holographic drives, this won't be a problem anymore. Perhaps then mobo makers will improve their CPU/Case fan power saving feature to make fans slow down to their bare required minimum.

By deeznuts on 3/28/2006 2:14:15 PM , Rating: 2
20MB/s which is what, 160Mb/s, right? Plenty fast for most networks. I think if this can come down it would be great.

By kilkennycat on 3/28/2006 9:10:13 PM , Rating: 2
If not, forget this technology as a replacement for hard-disks. Maybe it might eventually replace CD and DVD drives and media.

Transfer rate a typo?
By horsecharles on 3/30/2006 11:45:11 PM , Rating: 2
Transfer rate supposed to approach & maybe even trump sata...

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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