Dreaming of holographic storage

Let's explore a new storage technology that's finally becoming more reality than dream: holographic storage. You've probably heard of this fascinating technology for many years, but for all the hype, vendors had little to show until now: By the end of 2006, we should start seeing some practical enterprise applications.

A device based on holographic storage will be able to store hundreds of gigabytes or more on a single compact medium, at speeds of hundreds of megabytes per second with a data transfer size about 1 million bits.

That's all quite impressive, but how does it work? Imagine having two laser beams and pointing them at a light sensitive medium; crossing the two beams will burn a bit on an imaginary slate that can contain more than 1 million of them. To learn more, visit InPhase Technologies for a tour of the technology -- and while you're there, check out one of its holographic storage products.

The technology seems particularly well-suited to second-tier storage and data archival, and promises to be a disruptive technology. By the end of next year, it could start to challenge disks, tape drives, and other media in those two aforementioned areas, although actual viability for the solutions will depend on their cost.

InPhase isn't the only vendor with its eye on holographic storage, as I learned last year during a conversation with Terry Loseke, president of Optware America. Optware America is the recently born child of Japan-based Optware, and will market holographic storage products based on its "collinear technology." This collinear technology is a different and intriguing twist on holographic storage.

"Our collinear optical path is very similar to the optical pickup on a DVD, but we read [4,000 bit] images at a time instead of one bit," Loseke explains.

"Optware Japan has been working on this technology for the last five years," Loseke adds. "We are now going to take that technology and make products out of it. We'll target the high end of the market first, then we'll target consumer products."

There is always plenty of excitement in storage, but I can't wait to see products based on holographic storage come to the market. Hopefully we'll be discussing them again at the end of the year but as established products instead of future dreams.

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