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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: 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.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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