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Holographic Storage Slated to Hit Market This Fall 201

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the just-in-time-for-christmas dept.
prostoalex writes "The Guardian takes a look at the current developments in the world of holographic storage. Despite being available in research for over 40 years, the technology is getting commercialized only now, with InPhase Technologies launching its 600 GB write-once disk and a drive this fall. What avout the price? "The first holographic products are certainly not mass-market — a 600GB disc will cost around $180 (£90), and the drive costs about $18,000. Potential users include banks, libraries, government agencies and corporations.""
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Holographic Storage Slated to Hit Market This Fall

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  • by niceone (992278) * on Friday May 18, 2007 @07:38AM (#19176827) Journal

    InPhase Technologies launching its 600 GB write-once disk and a drive this fall

    Good thinking. I mean, if they were launching the disk without the drive (or even the other way round) it would be a lot less likely to succeed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drgonzo59 (747139)
      With 1TB hard drives hitting the market, is it really worth spending $180 for 1 (!) optical disk and a $18k for the drive? For that money one can buy a lot of 1TB hard drives and build a RAID 0/1/5... array and have more capacity and reliability. Besides, I don't see museums or even companies running to get that drive, because if the standard goes the way of the Laserdisc [wikipedia.org] then they are stuck with some exotic technology experiment and when their drive breaks there they will not be able to easily get thei
      • Re:Good thinking (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dosquatch (924618) on Friday May 18, 2007 @08:29AM (#19177205) Journal

        So says you.

        Bleeding edge is always a ridiculous expense. The people who are willing to be there already know who they are. That you even raise this question means that you are not.

        OTOH, neither am I, but that's not the point. The point is, this is the first commercial volley of a new technology, which means that a few years hence it will be cheaper with even higher data densities.

        Meaning, potentially, something like the entire run of every season of every Star Trek series ever... on one disc.

      • by anandsr (148302)
        Laserdisk was the result of a technology, which resulted in CDs and later DVDs. So it will still be beneficial for the early market, one which really needs the storage capacities of the disk to try it out. Ofcourse they will have to be rich enough to be able to throw that money for trying it out.
      • by TrevorB (57780)
        Redundancy is not backup. If you had a fire, or a hacker deface and delete your website, no RAID is going to fix that.

        The tape/HD size ratio is getting so ridiculous that at work we're seriously considering using Hard Drives as removable tape-like media for backup. Any other solution for backing up terabytes of data is too expensive.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Thundersnatch (671481)

          The tape/HD size ratio is getting so ridiculous that at work we're seriously considering using Hard Drives as removable tape-like media for backup. Any other solution for backing up terabytes of data is too expensive.

          We've been doing this for a few years actually, as a "roll your own" solution. We currently use removable drive carriers from DataStor, and 500 GB Seagate disks (first ATA, now SATA). We also use foam-padded locking carriers that are take off-site every day. We do ~1.2 TB of backups every nigh

      • by Izmunuti (461052)
        I think that comparing it to hard drives is not as accurate as a comparison with high-end tape drives. Such drives can cost $15,000 or more. The cost, capacity and speed are roughly comparable but the holodrive has random-access and its disks might be more durable than tape cartridges.
      • by Jessta (666101)
        You still need some backups of that Raid array.
        DVDs and even Blue-Ray are still way too small.

        You can't do backups to hard drives because they aren't very reliable, the whole moving part thing is a problem.
        So this tech is going to allow for a good optical backup solution.

      • by Jugalator (259273)
        With 1TB hard drives hitting the market, is it really worth spending $180 for 1 (!) optical disk and a $18k for the drive?

        No. But was the very early first generations of CD's and DVD's worth it? No.
        This sort of pricing is typical for immature technology if you haven't noticed.
      • by Ant P. (974313)
        For price-to-capacity ratio, it sounds far better value than any Blu-Ray drive on the market.
    • by Tuoqui (1091447)
      Yeah and at $18,000 for a drive these big companies don't have to worry about people losing discs anymore because they'll be the only ones who can afford the drives to read them!
      • by jabuzz (182671)
        I remember the very first DVD writer which was from Pioneer. It only did 3.95GB disks, the laser was stuffed after writting 1000 drives and the cost was 21,000GBP or over 40,000USD. Give it a few years and they will be as cheap as chips.
        • by Eccles (932)
          Heck, what about CD writers? In 1994 I worked for a company that often burned CD-Rs. The writer cost $8,000, the discs $16, and bad burns were common.

          I have a better CD writer sitting in a box now, because it's not worth my time to put it in any of my machines.
    • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Friday May 18, 2007 @08:38AM (#19177271)

      Good thinking. I mean, if they were launching the disk without the drive (or even the other way round) it would be a lot less likely to succeed.

      Yeah, that would be like a game company shipping a console before any games are available for it. Err...wait...

  • libraries? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Friday May 18, 2007 @07:39AM (#19176831) Journal
    What kind of library has £9000 to spend on a single piece of computer hardware? It'd be substantially cheaper to buy a computer and four of those 1 TB hardisks that were mentioned yesterday, and they'd be rewritable!
    Or they could spent the £9000 on, y'know, say... books.
    • by owlstead (636356)
      Dunno, a library of congress could store millions of these disks!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KokorHekkus (986906)
      A library isn't always a public lending library. Another type of libarary that could actually might have use for this type of storage solutions (not necessarily exactly this one) is what I would call historical research libraries. Their function is to protect the material and at the same time make it more accessible to people. It's not unusual for these libraries to have a serious digitizing projects so that the originals don't have to be disturbed (especially if they are physically deteriorated). Just the
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PDAllen (709106)
      The type of library that is a copyright library (i.e. receives a copy of every published book) rather than a public library (which is what you are thinking of). Think about e.g. university libraries, the British Library, the Library of Congress, that sort of thing. Obviously a public lending library isn't going to want one of these things, but then you don't go to a public library when you want to find a bit of obscure data.
    • by infinite9 (319274)
      What kind of library has £9000 to spend on a single piece of computer hardware?

      The Library of Congress? They need to figure out how many times they can copy themselves to one disk.


      And for that matter, the VW Club of America will need one to see how many VW Beetles they can cram into the drive.

  • I'll pass (Score:5, Funny)

    by cowscows (103644) on Friday May 18, 2007 @07:42AM (#19176853) Journal
    If the storage medium is anything other than a small, transparent, and slightly iridescent cube; then I'm not interested. Discs are so 90's.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      If the storage medium is anything other than a small, transparent, and slightly iridescent cube; then I'm not interested. Discs are so 90's.

      How about a little wooden ball with your name on it?
  • by ZombieEngineer (738752) on Friday May 18, 2007 @07:48AM (#19176891)
    From the article: Holographic storage offers extremely fast data transfer rates - currently up to 160Mbit/sec, though there are plans to increase this. When you have a multi-Terabyte system to backup AND verify within a short window (say 4 hours), speed trumps price just about every time. What is the cost of NOT having a backup? ZombieEngineer
    • From the article:

      Holographic storage offers extremely fast data transfer rates - currently up to 160Mbit/sec, though there are plans to increase this.
      When you have a multi-Terabyte system to backup AND verify within a short window (say 4 hours), speed trumps price just about every time.

      What is the cost of NOT having a backup?

      ZombieEngineer
      • Personally, I like the first one better.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Znork (31774)
        "speed trumps price just about every time."

        Of course, you can build a multiterabyte disk-to-disk backup system with gigabit transferrates out of common of the shelf hardware for less than $1000.

        The cost of having backups can certainly be made a lot less than $18000.
        • by simm1701 (835424)
          Yes but you do not build mission critical hardware out of off the shelf components.

          You buy high availability systems, usually with redundancy and a rated uptime in the region of 4, 5 or even 6 9's

          Take a fairly low end box in this space, a Clariion CX300 - got a small one for testing a couple of years ago for 25k (GBP) with 300Gb of storage (scsi 15k rpm) and thats before putting raid onto them.

          Oh and if you want the remote copy software license not only do you need another box at the same price but you'll p
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Znork (31774)
            With ten years experience working with enterprise class mission critical systems, I've seen those arguments (and those systems) many times. And yet in my experience, the 'rated uptimes' seem to be some definition of 'when the system is up and working the uptime will be 6 9's', because between everything from bugs through randomly incompatible hardware through firmware upgrades through operator (yes, the vendors own certified technicians) error, the actual on-line time for that kind of system usually isnt ev
    • Holographic storage offers extremely fast data transfer rates - currently up to 160Mbit/sec, though there are plans to increase this...speed trumps price just about every time.

      I could be wrong, but are you implying that people will use this because it's got 160Mbit/sec write time? Keep in mind that this is 20MB/sec. That's a little low for the standard harddrive, and you can increase it by adding more drives in a sequential raid.
      If that's the speed, then it absolutely isn't a good reason to use this.

      The only advantage this actually has is information density. One 600GB disc is going to be pretty tiny compared to an array of harddrives designed to get the speed up.

      Is that worth it for a library or bank? My inclination would be no. A couple hundred harddrives in a SAN is probably a better idea.

      The market will be those individuals that absolutely, positively need the discs to be tiny, and nothing else matters. Because this tech isn't going to do anything else better than what we've already got.
      • by springbox (853816)
        Yes, but having a bunch of cheap hard drives really isn't as portable and would probably use much more energy overall.
    • by owlstead (636356)
      160 Mbit/sec? That's about 33% of the speed of current hard drives, maximum. Remember, transfer speeds are normally measured in MB/sec (or, more accurately, MiB/sec) not Mbit/sec. And for hard drives there are RAID solutions readily available. The things that might be interesting for customers are reliability, power consumption and (kind of) storage space needed. It might be that these things beat hard drives in these sections. Storage capacity, speed and price of hard drives are definately not yet within r
      • 160 Mbit/sec? That's about 33% of the speed of current hard drives, maximum.

        And 600GB on a CD-sized disk is a lot higher data denisty than current hard drives, and its probably more resistant to shock, etc. With a write-once disk, you aren't looking to replace hard drives in regular day-to-day use, its a archival, backup, and perhaps high-volume distribution medium (where you fill several of them with data, jump in a car, and drive to where you want your data to end up). Now, admittedly, I don't have the ki

  • When 1TB hard drives are now making an appearance, why would you spend $18000 on a drive that stores data on expensive 600GB disks?
    • Re:But why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by yakumo.unr (833476) on Friday May 18, 2007 @07:54AM (#19176929) Homepage
      Because magnetic media fails, badly, often, and at any time.
      It is in NO way a long term backup solution.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Benosaurus (1100067)
        Because magnetic media fails, badly, often, and at any time.
        It is in NO way a long term backup solution.


        And you don't expect the first generation of this system to fail?! Heh.

        Magnetic doesn't fail as much as you make it sound. We have 100s of TB backed up on 400 GB Tivoli tapes and rarely lose a tape. If we do, its not the media itself... a pin from a tape will get stuck in the drive (from the tape being mishandled -- someone dropped it a few times.) The media itself is still usable.

        BTW...
      • by Znork (31774)
        Magnetic media fails if it's constantly used. Turn a TB disk off and store it on the shelf, and I doubt it will fail any faster than your average optical storage.

        Either way, if you want to be sure about your archived data, forget 'backup' and 'archive' paradigms and keep multiple copies online on live storage where you'll actually note, and can recover from, backing media failures. Live storage is as cheap as media based backups and archives for most dataset sizes and purposes these days, and will only get
        • There was a recent google report that suggested otherwise, though this obviously isn't the same as just sticking them on a shelf.

          http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/02/ 18/0420247 [slashdot.org]

          (from the PDF)
          "Overall, we expected to notice a very strong and con-
          sistent correlation between high utilization and higher
          failure rates. However our results appear to paint a more
          complex picture. First, only very young and very old
          age groups appear to show the expected behavior. Af-
          ter the first year, the AFR of high ut
  • There is a need... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Friday May 18, 2007 @07:56AM (#19176939)
    for a high density archival format, but I can't see where this even comes close.

    The manufacturer rates it at 50 year archival life, with no specifics about how that number was derived (is that an average? guaranteed for every piece of media? until an error rate of "x" is encountered? under what storage conditions?).

    It's a proprietary solution, from a single startup company - what are the odds that a reader is going to exist in 50 years? Note that the manufacturer specifically warns of a lack of backward compatibility when they state "Drive is backward read compatible for three generations; 18-24 months between generations." Having an archive of data which is inaccessible doesn't get you much.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mal0rd (323126)
      Thanks for finding the information I was just going to lookup on their website. 50 years may not be optimal, but it's a lot better then the only competitors, hard drives or burned DVDs, which usually fail under 10 years. The fact that it's write-once is another plus, since even software bugs can't damage the data.

      Your other point is valid, but secondary. If your DVDs or HDDs have degraded beyond readability, they're useless no matter how many readers you have. And if the life-span of the reader is longe
      • that their "50 year" life is any more accurate than the "100 year" life [verbatim-europe.com] given for recordable DVDs? You just claimed that DVD lifetime is overstated by 10x.

        Write once does not imply that the content cannot be damaged, or even that the media can't be written to further, only that it cannot be written with useful information (e.g. it may be possible to change bits from 0 to 1, but not the reverse).

        Why do you think storing a few $18K readers would have better results in a obtaining a working device 50 years l
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      Evidence 1:
      The manufacturer rates it at 50 year archival life, with no specifics about how that number was derived

      Evidence 2:
      Despite being available in research for over 40 years, it is only commercialised now

      It's obvious: they just wrote few discs and waited to see what happens.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      It's a proprietary solution, from a single startup company - what are the odds that a reader is going to exist in 50 years?

      Just to clarify, CD/DVD/HD-DVD/BluRay - they are all proprietary solutions in the full meaning of the word.

      Your second point has more merit, since this would look better if theys truck few partnership deals to create those drives/media, versus produce everything themselves.

      But since it's pretty much a tight niche market yet, I suppose the big players were not interested (yet).
      • I obviously meant "proprietary" in the practical sense. CD/DVD, etc. are well documented and have a high level of compatibility across a large selection of manufacturers, both for media and recorders/readers.
        Haven't the early patents on CDs (which were introduced to the market in the early 1980's) expired? CD-R was introduced in 1988, so even those patents may have expired (or will shortly), at which point the format will no longer be proprietary, even in the pedantic sense.

        In any case, CD and DVD technolo
  • Personally, I think the only uses for a 600GB write-only-once drive are backups, a DYI Nuclear Weapons for Rising Countries Kit (or similar content), taking "snapshots" of the Internet, and storing the known digits of pi, largest prime numbers, and other interesting numbers.

    Then again, there's also the thought about using them for file-servers, and server logs, but seriously, one-writes are not really that attractive given the price tags. Hopefully, the re-writable media/technology will be available within
    • Personally, I think the only uses for a 600GB write-only-once drive are backups, a DYI Nuclear Weapons for Rising Countries Kit (or similar content), taking "snapshots" of the Internet, and storing the known digits of pi, largest prime numbers, and other interesting numbers.

      But what do you do when Pi changes? Then you're hosed.

  • A real product? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Random BedHead Ed (602081) on Friday May 18, 2007 @08:03AM (#19176995) Homepage Journal
    Wow, a real product. Every time I read about holographic storage, particularly on Slashdot, it's in the same sort of context in which you'd read about quantum computing or Star Trek-style teleportation. Like this: "Scientists at (fill in name of university) have managed to get (name of particle) to (some verb), a first step toward what could one day be practical (quantum computing, space elevators, carbon nanotube frisbees, or whatever). They used a (system you'd never be able to afford) to (do something even your grandkids won't be able to do), and predict that the process will be commercially viable in (about the same amount of time it will take us all to get cold fusion reactors installed in our cars)." Nice to see something like this actually come to market!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by squizzar (1031726)
      I agree with the parent on this. At least it's not vapourware.

      Always the same debate with new technologies, especially storage - too expensive, something else is better etc. etc. Goes all the way back to floppy disks vs. ethernet. The first hard drives were around 20Mb, and cost a lot more than the 15 or so floppies they replaced.

      What would be great is if someone knowledgeable had a look at the technology and made an educated guess as to whether it will be cheap in mass production. I'm pretty sure the f
      • by Robotbeat (461248)
        "A far more useful analysis would be whether this technology could be made cheap when mass produced."

        Well, I did holographic research at my University, and the holographic plates we used were about $5-$10, if I remember correctly. That's a lot less than the $180 dollars, and those $180 disks are made of plastic, not glass like the plates were. Granted, the plates I used were for red light (same price for green light ones, though), not for blue light, but I doubt that if you can produce a million of these di
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by osgeek (239988)
        We need go no further than Slashdot's search engine to nail these bozos: Same guys last year [slashdot.org] making claims that they were shipping that year. Here they are [slashdot.org] the year before along with some other crooks making claims. And earlier in 2005 [slashdot.org]... why do they get so much play for vapor?

        Ooh, here's a good one on some guy trying sucker people with funding for his spintronics [slashdot.org] drive that will bring miraculous storage to the masses. He already has pricing worked out!

        While I'm sure that sooner or later one of thes
    • by osgeek (239988)
      What on earth are you talking about? Of course it's not a real product. It's vapor. Here's an article on Slashdot [slashdot.org] that's not about vapor. See the difference? One is a product that an actual reviewer was able to buy and get his hands on... the other one is just fanciful speculation.

      I skimmed through the article looking for a reference to a real product that someone had gotten his hands on... nothing. Just more speculation on how so much gee-whizz-plenty storage will be used to make all our lives so w
    • by kabocox (199019)
      Wow, a real product. Every time I read about holographic storage, particularly on Slashdot, it's in the same sort of context in which you'd read about quantum computing or Star Trek-style teleportation

      I'm not even sure to treat this as legit till it's been in use for 6 months to a year. Holographic storage has seemed more of a funding black hole than fusion or Duke Nukem Forever. I'd love to see real fusion or holographic storage being sold and used, but I'm not holding my breath.
  • Help me... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Yonder Way (603108) on Friday May 18, 2007 @08:07AM (#19177023)
    ...Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope!
  • by Koookiemonster (1099467) on Friday May 18, 2007 @08:39AM (#19177285)
    One potential use I can think of is selling/renting really high definition movies, TV series or collections of movies. For example, 10 seasons of "Friends" in ultra high definition would surely take up a lot of space. For that use a single disc with a huge capacity is perfect.

    The disc in question is much more elegant and cool than a stack of bulky, noisy hard disks. Elegant and cool may sound petty, but they sell for certain kinds of people with too much money. They even sell RCA cables for more than $18,000.
    • by Atzanteol (99067)
      I already have a location to store all the high-def "friends" episodes I could ever want. /dev/null...
  • by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craig@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday May 18, 2007 @08:49AM (#19177365)
    ... holographic storage will be soooo much better for saving pr0n.
  • by mlts (1038732) *
    I hope InPhase can net some capital on their end so they can work on lowering the price.

    I can see installing an autochanger using Inphase Tapestry based technology as a dedicated solution in large corporations to permanently archive large amounts of data. This would be installed side-by-side with existing technologies such as DLT 600 tape which would be used for rewritability.

    I'm just glad to see something on the market after the decades of idle promises on holographic storage.
  • Their site (Score:3, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:10AM (#19177569)
    Is amusing. It's got the pointless wave abstract graphics I usually see on sites with nothing to say (now, of course, I'm not claiming this, these guys seem serious in general).

    Their slogan is "data at the speed of light". Because, they use lasers and holographic technology, do you get it? It's a very smart slogan.

    But the reason I'm writing this post is this site reminded me of the International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies (IAVRT) which was supposed to bring Neuronet upon us, and they wamnted to fund this by selling "neuronet domains". They have shut down for a "few weeks" until they hit some major partnerships. Quite some months have passed since.

    Check their domain page still with the same message (and notice the uncanny similarities in design with InPhase Technologies):

    Wavy green lines header [iavrt.org]

    Bottom line is, wavy green lines aren't very convincing, we need high res demos of icy cubes storing TB of data, come on!
  • [...] a 600GB disc will cost around $180 (£90) [...]
    How about some kind of tag with the amount, the currency and the date? That way, the browser could show us the value in our own currency, checked against the exchange rate for that day?

    • Because that would violate separation of content and presentation, and would require an ever-present internet connection to have any meaning whatsoever?

      It's not a bad idea as maybe a feature in a web browser, but it doesn't make any sense an HTML tag.
      • by Yvan256 (722131)
        The tag would already contain the amount value and the currency. Without an internet connection it would display as usual but could at least display the currency of the amount. The "$" sign is used by the USA, Canada and Australia (and maybe others, I don't know). Of course you can assume it's in US dollars, but assuming does a lot of damage in a lot of types of informations: currency, lengths/weights, dates, etc.

        As for violating the separation of content and presentation, I beg to differ. If the content is
  • by sirwired (27582) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:53AM (#19178057)
    This product has been "Coming Soon" for a couple of years now. I think this is the third or fourth time this no-product startup has gotten an article posted on Slashdot. It is slow (180Mb/s is in no way "fast), under-capacity (600GB is a waste of time), overpriced, and unproven. If you want near-line storage, use SATA, if you want archival, use tape. I don't see much of a market for this thing.

    SirWired
  • At that price, it reminds me of a classic Fallon line, to the effect of:
    "Yeah, I've got an idea for a car that runs on bald eagle heads and Faberge eggs."

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