Holographic storage ships next month!

Holographic storage ships next month!

Summary: Even since astronaut Dave Bowman disconnected the HAL 9000's holographic memory in 2001: A Space Odyssey techies have been wondering when we could buy real holographic storage. Now we know: May, 2008.

TOPICS: Storage, Hardware

Even since astronaut Dave Bowman disconnected the HAL 9000's holographic memory in 2001: A Space Odyssey techies have been wondering when we could buy real holographic storage. Now we know: May, 2008.

Promising super-high density and excellent media flaw resistance, holographic storage has been an ever-receeding technology for years. You can buy nifty 3D skull and crossbones holograms - technically a form of storage - but no one had figured out how to turn a lab project into a product. Until now.

Update: I added a video of the device and media and VP Liz Murphy talks about the company and the product. About 110 seconds. The clear yellow plastic cover on the device is for display purposes only. End update.

How does it work? Holograms use 2 coherent laser beams - a reference beam and an illumination beam - to create an interference pattern that is recorded on photo sensitive media. Shine a laser on the recorded interference pattern and the original image is reconstructed in glorious 3D. As the laser moves around - or you do - you see the image from different perspectives.

Holographic storage has a couple of neat properties.

  1. A small fragment of a hologram can reconstruct the entire data image. The fragment won't let you move as far around the image, but for 2D images, like a photograph, it means a scratch isn't fatal.
  2. Data density is theoretically unlimited. By varying the angle between the reference and illumination beams - or the angle of the media - hundreds of holograms can be stored in the same physical area.

Another factor: photographic media has the longest proven lifespan - over a century - of any modern media. Since there's no physical contact you can read the media millions of times with no degradation.

Really hard problems The first laser holograms were made over 45 years ago. But a storage device needs to be fast, dense and manufacturable. InPhase had to literally invent almost every piece of the system.

  • The optical media.
  • The manufacturing process for fabricating thick, optically-flat and high-dynamic range media.
  • The mathematics and circuitry needed to use digital camera CMOS chips for high-speed and high-accuracy image reconstruction.
  • A new method - polytopic multiplexing - for a 10x density increase.
  • Holographic mastering techniques for commercial reproduction.

inphase-tapestry.jpg [image courtesy of InPhase Technologies]

Target market Which gets us to InPhase's target market: archiving. That's why they were showing at NAB.

They've spec'd the optical media they use - a 5.25" clear disk in a cartridge - at 50 years. For film and video companies whose data is literally irreplaceable a stable, compact and random access medium is a no-brainer.

Retail pricing It is that value that justifies a price - $18,000 - that will keep most of us from buying ourselves an early Xmas gift. The quantity 1 media price of $180 for 300 GB looks expensive to us, but quite reasonable compared with the cost of 35mm film stock and long-term storage.

15 years ago a 3x CD reader cost a few hundred dollars. Perhaps in 15 years holographic burners will be $50 and the media less than a $1.

The Storage Bits take Kudos to InPhase for a magnificent achievement. This is comparable in many respects to the IBM's original RAMAC disk back in 1957. They all deserve to get rich.

Learn more about the technology at the InPhase Technologies web site.

Comments welcome, of course.

Topics: Storage, Hardware

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  • Cool

    Cool :). Can we get a Sci-Fi crystal form factor? That would be neat.

    In any case, I suppose the classic disk form factor will work as well.

    Now for the long wait for it to come down in price to something individuals can afford :(.
  • RE: Holographic storage ships next month!

    Th InPhase web site used to show a consumer version in their road map. I hope this makes a come back soon.
  • RE: Holographic storage ships next month!

    I know it's going to be super expensive when it comes out. It would make archiving larger raids a breeze. Tape Drives always have made me nervous as a back up method.
  • All tapes are not the same, just as all disks are not.

    High quality tapes such as LTO3/4, Sun T10000 and IBM TSxxxx do not make me nervous at all. At the lower end of the market e.g. DAT, DLT etc these make me nervous. We seem to put tape in one basket e.g. all tapes are not the same. We understand the differences between SATA, ATA, FC, SAS disks and their quality. We need to understand the storage media market better. However, all kudos to InPhase, hope this works, nice technology. How do we know it will save data for 50yrs, what was the advanced ageing test to proove this.
  • I remember reading

    about this in High school and I graduated in 1983! I'm really excited to see this coming out finally but yes. It'll be a LONG while before it's affordable. Still - it's out there finally! It's all downhill from here.

    Guess Blu-ray will be the last DVD storage for me. I hope.

    - Kc
  • RE: Holographic storage ships next month!

    Good Start but will wait for Colossal Storage
    10 Petabytes in 2010-2012 for $ 1,000 and $ 75 disk.

  • RE: Holographic storage ships next month!

    David Bowman disconnected HAL... Frank Poole was the other guy (killed outside the ship... to be revived in the year 3000).
  • RE: Holographic storage ships next month!

    Your explanation is batshit insane - this isn't a great deal to do with encoding images into as medium, but rather to allow a disc to be written with a bit of data stored in an area the same as square with the dimensions of the light beam used to encode it.
    • Thats is supposed to read:

      "Your explanation is batshit insane - this isn't a great deal to do with encoding images into a medium, but rather to allow a disc to be written with a bit of data stored in an area the same as a square with the same dimensions as the wavelength of the light beam used to encode it."

      Sorry, I am equal parts retarded and tired.
      • I think you are forgetting the 3D part.

        I didn't get into how InPhase encodes the images they are
        archiving, so you are partly correct. But multiple bits of
        data are stored in a single physical location and accessed
        through a technique they call polytopic multiplexing.
        According to InPhase<br>
        Using InPhase's Tapestry&#63722; blue media with a 1.5 mm thick
        recording layer, 500 Gb/in.2 was demonstrated by
        multiplexing 6720 holograms in 21 books with 320 pages
        of data per book.
        Why have a 3D medium if you don't use all 3D?
        R Harris
        • Closer still but...

          In a hologram the bits are not stored in discrete locations but every bit shares the entire volume of the recording. One side benefit of this technique is, as mentioned in the article, that the entire record can be retrieved from even a small piece of the media.
  • RE: Holographic storage ships next month!

    That was DAVE Bowman, not Frank. Frank was Frank Poole who was killed by HAL.
    Elvis Gump
    • Right you are!

      Corrected in the text. Thanks!

      R Harris
  • storage obsolescence

    Hello, here's yet another media format.

    I hate to rain on this parade, as this
    technology is the first generation of the
    much-vaunted technology which may yet put
    blu-ray out of its misery before too long.

    The problem with storage technology is that
    it becomes obsolete too soon for one reason
    or another (storage provider goes out of
    business, competing formats confuse the
    marketplace, a newer better format takes its

    I hope industry rallies around a single format
    so that one doesn't have to buy this product
    only to have it become useless.

    Remember: floppy disks, Zip disks, and
    their ilk? Do we have to keep moving the
    same data from one form to another so we
    can retrieve it?
    • This is why storage is hard

      Network, chip and software guys have it easier - they get
      to replace everything every few years.

      But our data? No replacing that.

      That said, there are still companies out there that will
      transfer your old 9 track, 6250 bpi tapes to something
      more modern. For movie studios and 3 letter agencies it
      will be a cost-effective investment to maintain equipment
      that can read these disks.

      R Harris
    • Planned Obsolescence

      Remember, obsolescence is by design--not just in data storage media but in pretty much anything that's sold nowadays. They have to keep coming out with new stuff for us to buy and convincing us it's better than the old stuff, or they'd go out of business. But they only make each new generation so much better than the last, so we'll be dissatisfied in a relatively short period of time and they can then spring yet another 'solution' on us. And have you noticed that with each new generation they find ways for us to fill up the extra capacity that much faster? Not a coincidence.

      I try to make due with what I've got for as long as humanly possible and avoid collecting vast amounts of unneeded data that would require all this new junk. I only upgrade when something comes out that is a truly significant advance beyond what I now have (or when my current gear is truly obsolescent--i.e., it dies.) Maybe if this holographic storage gets off the ground, it will (eventually) fit the bill. We'll see.
    • But that's called REALITY...

      While I concede your points, there's ALWAYS going to be a "better" product out there. That's how it goes.

      Early adopters hopefully realize this when they adopt new technologies.

      As the capacity of a storage medium increases, so will the need.
  • RE: Holographic storage ships next month!

    Wunderbar! This is precisely why I purchased these 2 domains below - and put up associated websites - to get a bit "ahead of the curve" for when the pricing comes down to address the massive consumer market...



    Ted Stalets
  • it's still a very particular niche

    at $180 for 300GB is a lot more expensive than a HDD. They did not mention read/write steeds and I suspect they are below the current HDD technology.
    I don't see this media replacing storage in computingg devices, but rather being relegated to some sort of long term storage, where it beats the current magnetic media.
    Linux Geek
    • RE: it's still a very particular niche

      They actually did mention the speed. They said it was faster than real time. So, basically, they're faster than what any computer can handle, so you're maxing out your speed with them.