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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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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?

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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