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Data Storage Technology

InPhase Technologies Promises Holographic Drive in May 194

Posted by timothy
from the want-to-believe dept.
Anonymous Coward writes "After 8 years of effort, InPhase Technologies is shipping the world's first holographic disk drive next month. They showed it at this week's NAB. With a 300GB 5.25" disk cartridge and a 50-year media life, the Tapestry 300r is aimed at the video and film archive market. They've been promising this thing for so long I'd given up hope that they'd ever ship it!"
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InPhase Technologies Promises Holographic Drive in May

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  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by bigtallmofo (695287) * on Saturday April 19, 2008 @10:43PM (#23132030)
    I've dreamed often of the day I could buy a completely non-standard technology that rids me of large quantities of the pesky money I have lying around while at the same time solves the removable storage problems of 3 years ago. Too bad this unit only costs $18,000 and stores just under 1/3 of my hard disk space!
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Exactly. You can get a 500 GB hard disk for $100. Why not just use those for backup. At the cost of this holographic storage, you could buy 2 or 3 500 GB hard drives, and keep multiple copies just in case one died. Since you'd only be using them for backup, and they would actually get very little wear and tear, I would guess that it would be easy to have a hard drive last for 50 years.
      • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@ ... a - h u dson.com> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:21PM (#23132226) Journal

        Heck, wait 3 years and you'll be able to buy 500 gig usb keys for $100. You can buy an 8 gig kensington USB drive for $30 right now ... they were $120 a year ago. If capacity continues to quadruple every year for the same price point, you're looking at 32 gig for $30 next year, or +/-$100 for 100 gig, 400 gig in 2 years, and a terabyte in 3-1/2. Of course, by then, you'll be able to buy 2TB hard drives for $50 ...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by matt21811 (830841)
          I've studied the price improvement trends for flash memory and, unfortunately, it isnt quite the 4 fold yearly improvement you are suggesting. For the last 5 years it averages something about 2.6 fold.
          Supprisisngly it doesnt make much difference to your numbers over a relatively short period like 3 1/2 years:
          today $100 for about 26 Gig (using your starting point of $30 for 8 GB)
          1 year from now - 68 Gig
          2 years from now - 175 Gig
          3 year - 450 Gig
          4 years - 1.2 Tera

          I have also studied hard drives in the same way
      • Re:Finally! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:26PM (#23132262) Homepage Journal

        Why not just use those for backup.
        Because it violates a fundamental IT principle: always keep your backup media separate from your reader. With a 500GB HDD, your reader and your media are the same thing.

        Keeping media and reader separate helps to protect against total catastrophe.
        • by aliquis (678370)
          May I ask how? I could understand it if you was risking to lose/break the reader when a new one wasn't available, but uhm, for a harddrive that point or kind of worth nothing.
        • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Informative)

          by shmlco (594907) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:40PM (#23132326) Homepage
          You've obviously never had a backup tape or an old Zip or Jaz drive fail to read because of differences in track calibrations or read heads.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by JoshHeitzman (1122379)
          The reader is worthless without anything to read, so you are just as screwed if the separate media get trashed as you are if the HDD's get trashed. HDD's are cheap enough that you can just make make multiple copies of the backups and keep them at different physical locations, then in a few years copy them to bigger hard drives, rinse repeat until the data is no longer needed, or something more economical then hard drives comes along. If the HDDs are hot swappable then you can think of the HDDs as the medi
        • by grumbel (592662)
          Since when has that been a fundamental rule of IT? You should keep your backup away from the real data for sure, so that when one burns down you still have the other. But keep the drive apart from the reader, what good is that supposed to do? If your drive files you might end up having a really hard time tracking down a new one, putting all your backups in limbo, especially it not just fails to work, but destroys your backup media in the process when you try to read it, like Zip Drives click-of-death. And w
      • Better yet: LTO-4 (800GB per cartrage) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_Tape-Open [wikipedia.org]
        • Til that damn LTO stretches and drops the leader in the drive and you get to ship it back or take the drive apart and void its warranty to recover the leader.

          Then once recovered...

          It does it again....and again....on the tape that has the data.

          Tape is the best we got at this point for true portable data backup,
          but lets face it Tape sucks.

          I am with Google on this, keep multiple copies of the data,
          and at least one copy at a different location.

          They do not Tape Backup all their data, and thus I consider their
          way
        • by jabuzz (182671)
          What I would like to see is holographic technology in an LTO tape cartridge. Now we would be talking, more in the region of 100TB a tape...
      • That isn't the point, its the first holographic storage (so they say). It will increase in size, theoretically to infinite density.

        That means 5 years from now holographic storage will be both cheaper and much higher density, not to mention it will likely be more reliable.
      • Exactly. You can get a 500 GB hard disk for $100. Why not just use those for backup. At the cost of this holographic storage, you could buy 2 or 3 500 GB hard drives, and keep multiple copies just in case one died. Since you'd only be using them for backup, and they would actually get very little wear and tear, I would guess that it would be easy to have a hard drive last for 50 years

        But let's think of the possibilities. Backing up is the tip of the iceberg. Maybe you would be nuts to buy the product, but i
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      RTFA its not a consumer product.

      Its aimed at people like warner brothers who currently spend gobs of money on climate controlled vaults preserving literally tons of 35mm film, and server farms storing digital raws of movies like LOTR.

      This is actually a cheaper alternative for them because they will spend much much more on the hundreds of thousands if not millions of disks then they will on the reader.

      And it gives them a storage medium thats effectively ageless, instead of current HDD's that demagnetize over
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hcmtnbiker (925661)
      But you're also forgetting that holographic drives are inherently associative(at least in theory). Which solves tons of problems that ordinary drives have with look-ups and other time consuming operations.
    • by Björn (4836)
      Also, it should also work great with the holographic keyboard [biteus.org]. And if we really work on it, maybe we can turn a complete computer into a hologram?
    • Would you like my old Bernoulli drives, or shall I find a friend with a laserdisc player?
  • by Zerth (26112) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @10:45PM (#23132034)
    When I can buy it.

    But I won't actually buy it until after I hear at least 1 horror story about photonic lifeforms eating somebody's data or something equally bad:)
  • utterly pointless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @10:51PM (#23132076)
    $18,000 could buy me enough hd's so that i could rotate 2 backup disks once a year for the next 90 years.
    • Well holographic memory has faster access times than regular hard drives. That was supposed to be the selling point back when they debuted in prototype, like 7 years ago. Now that SSDs are popular and becoming cheaper, holographic memory looks to be headed off to novelty purgatory.
      • Depends on how much more information we're going to be able to cram into SSD technology, I'd think holographic technology has a lot of potential to be able to store more from the random snippets I've read on /. over the years. Remember that when hard drives came out they stored less than 1MB (I think - my first HD was 80MB though), and were massive!
      • by aliquis (678370)
        Why is that? They don't spin? How are they read?
  • Flashbacks.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grave (8234) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [88treblawa]> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @10:53PM (#23132088)
    Wow, that brings back memories of 5.25" floppies. Makes me wonder what this tech will look like in 20 years. Internal drives with 3.5" media storing hundreds of terabytes? SD-sized holographic media? Now that this technology has moved from proof-of-concept to a purchasable product (or will be in one month), it'll be very interesting to see how quickly it progresses.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:09PM (#23132164) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, my hand passed right through it.
  • Price (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) * on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:13PM (#23132186)
    I can see a hundred posts from people that will completely miss the point. All because of the price. Bitch, Moan, Bitch, Bitch, Moan, Moan.

    FTA:

    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.
     
    They've spec'd the optical media they use - a 5.25 clear disk in a cartridge - at 50 years.


    Spinning Hard drives, Solid State Hard drives, CD's, and DVD's don't have anything CLOSE to holographic media.

    Spinning Hard drives could be used, and they are, to store data for long periods of time. Problem is that it susceptible to EM fields and even while not spinning, it might be possible to have some degradation nonetheless. Holographic media is not affected by EM fields.

    Solid State Hard drives are better off than spinning ones for sure, but still suffer from the same problems with an EM field AFAIK.

    CD's and DVD's long shelf life is a MYTH. Most of them are not manufactured to last longer then 5-10 years. A scratch can easily damage either one of them, and repairs are not easy. Holographic Medium? Apparently not.

    So the .50 cent per gigabyte price point may not be that attractive to the average IT guy, but when you have to make ABSOLUTELY sure the data will remain intact it certainly sounds like the way to go. The 18,000$ dollar cost for reader/writer will come down eventually, so that is really not even an issue. Hell, my first CD-R cost me 600$ and I STILL have my 1200$ Pinnacle Micro 4x4.

    The fact they actually got it to production and selling it means there is a pretty good chance of seeing a few thousand dollar reader/writer within 2 years.

    For those that are really hung up on the price, consider this:

    To be REALLY safe with your data you would have remove all single points of failure. A single hard drive on a shelf IS a single point of failure, as is a CD/DVD. So you would need to be constantly "rolling" over the data in multiple RAIDS with snapshots, while at the same time, verifying the integrity with checksums before every snapshot. To take it one step further, multiple locations that synchronize over high speed networks... iSCSI?

    Apparently a holographic medium can be written with "hundreds of holograms being stored in the same physical area". Sure sounds to me like you could store quite a bit of data with a considerable amount of recovery capability. I would hazard a guess, that just a few of these written this way and stored in separate physical locations would provide the same level of reliability and redundancy that current solutions provide (such as the one I outlined)... with a 50-100 year shelf life. If you look up the actual costs of iSCSI this sounds like a bargain to me.
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      what do you do if they go out of business and your reader fails? afterall the reader is susceptible to EM fields that you are so afraid of.

      lots of standard HD's is a fair better option and a lot safer then some non standard tech that only one company makes.

      • Re:Price (Score:5, Informative)

        by EdIII (1114411) * on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:37PM (#23132312)
        Who is to say that they will not license the technology? If they go out of business, somebody stepped into to buy the assets. Technology patented? Patents disappear in 20 years (or they should).

        How is the reader susceptible to magnetic fields again? We are talking about just the reader right? If you are referring to EMP blasts from something like a nuclear device, then the fact your holo reader is not working is the least of your problems. Not trying to be sarcastic (at least not totally), but how does EM affect any kind of CD/DVD/HOLO readers?

        You are also forgetting the target market here. Somebody like Disney. Didn't we just hear that a FUCKING JANITOR found one of Disney's long lost films in Japan? When you have incredibly valuable content that you have created, and archiving process like this is well worth it. If they don't have working readers in 40 years, I would say they could afford to have a firm make one for them from the plans available on the Internet in 2058.

        The technology itself is promising, and "lots of standard HD's" are not a better option, or safer. If you were to evaluate the total costs, standard HD's would cost your more in the long run to achieve the same level of reliability as this holographic technology.

        You also need to remember, this is not like a hard drive. It does not have any proprietary IC components, no internal firmwares, no connectors, moving parts, etc. It is a solid piece of holographic material. If you take it out of the case and set it on a desk, you can SEE the data with your own eyes. To get the data back off into a computer system, simply requires some lasers and mathematical algorithms, which I would guess is going to be trivial in a few decades. A hard drive is NOT the same. If you took a 250 MEG HD from over 15 years ago and had to remove the platters, just how easy would it be to find parts that could read those platters again? Remember, the density has changed from 15 years ago. The internal parts and technology in hard drives is substantially different now. At least with Holographic media, you don't even have to TOUCH it. Just set it on top of some lasers and read it with whatever technology you have.
        • Re:Price (Score:4, Insightful)

          by evanbd (210358) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @01:15AM (#23132724)

          If you're Disney, or anyone else with data valuable enough to possibly justify recreating an ancient media format reader, then the correct archive solution isn't a single format. It's a storage facility that has people maintaining the archive and updating formats and verifying that the data is still readable. Rather like a library, complete with librarians.

          If you're comparing reconstructing a reader, then reading an ancient 250MB disk is easy -- there is tech now that can read off damaged and warped platters through techniques not dissimilar to electron microscopy, and I guarantee it could handle a far-less-dense 250MB drive without issue. Figuring out the low-level formatting would be no harder than for the holo media, and probably rather easier.

    • Re:Price (Score:5, Interesting)

      by samkass (174571) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:26PM (#23132256) Homepage Journal
      A scratch loses you data, period. Whether it's holographic or not, you're either trading capacity for recoverability or you're vulnerable to a scratch. There's no magic here. Even with Blu-Ray you could store the data using forward error correction in such a way that complete obliteration of 1/4 of the disc still yields 100% of your data-- you'll just reduce the storage capacity somewhat.

      Presumably, however, holographic storage has so much dang storage available that it's not a problem to give some of it up to have enough redundancy to survive typical wear and tear. (And all optical media gets wear and tear just from being spun up and down in non-cleanroom environments.)

      And if you're worried about the longevity of CDs and DVDs, scratches aren't really what you're worried about anyway. Most scratches are on the clear plastic and can be repaired. However, some discs were manufactured with chemicals that oxidizes the layers, some with defects in the seal, etc. So your typical "stamped" disc will last decades if free of defect, but less than a decade if it has one-- and there's almost no way of knowing ahead of time. I don't know what substrate the holographic image is being stored on, but we'll have to see if it's completely free of degradation over decades. I certainly wouldn't want to immediately dump important data into this format and throw away the originals yet.

      So for now it just remains an expensive unproven alternative... we'll have to see where it goes, though.

      • Re:Price (Score:5, Interesting)

        by davolfman (1245316) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @12:06AM (#23132462)
        Not exactly. As I understand it holographic media works fundamentally different from an optical disk and no bit is dependent on a single location on the disk. Instead of a scratch taking out several bits from different tracks that the CRC codes make up for a scratch makes a large number of bits loose definition uncritically. In this fashion a holographic disk would take quite a few scratches with no data lost until it started reaching a threshold where all of the bits started to read unreliably all at once. That said I'm coming from Wikipedia so who knows how biased and inaccurate that information is for this particular technology.
        • Re:Price (Score:5, Informative)

          by wik (10258) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @12:23AM (#23132532) Homepage Journal
          If you want to learn more about this, I suggest Dr. Wilson's talk [cmu.edu] on InPhase's technology at CMU in November. It's a very accessible and interesting talk for someone who is not familiar with the field.
        • by evanbd (210358)
          If they're doing a spinning media with serial read and write patterns, that implies that the size of the coherent hologram is vastly less than the size of the disk. Which means that scratches lose the data that is stored on that part of the disk. I have no idea how large a domain they're using, but I'd guess kilobits or less.
    • Data density is theoretically unlimited.
      No it isn't, it's 300GB per cartridge.

      A scratch can easily damage either one of them, and repairs are not easy. Holographic Medium? Apparently not.
      I'll believe that when I see it and when you don't need to pay for expensive services to recover data from a damaged disk, i.e. any normal reader can do it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by somersault (912633)
        It's 300 for the current read/write device. Theoretically, it's unlimited.
        • Perhaps, but my point is that what is theoretically possible and what has been realized and is actually available are two very different things, and what is "theoretical" is not what you are actually paying for.

          I'll happily sell you my desktop PC for $18,000. Theoretically, one day you'll be able to upgrade it to what is now considered a supercomputer for $300 in parts.
          • The thing is, that you'd be able to do it with the same media, so you could recoup some of your costs that way. And another poster highlighted the possibility that all it may take is a firmware upgrade to the reader to be able to realise the larger storage density, though personally I would have thought that the lasers themselves would need upgrading too
      • theoretically unlimited my ass.

        there are only a finite number of atoms/gluons/etc in the disk. There are only a finite number of positions/orientations they can take (nothing is analogue when you get small enough) - so they can only store a finite ammount of information.

        How do people get away with such obviously bogus claims?
    • Re:Price (Score:4, Insightful)

      by evanbd (210358) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @12:00AM (#23132434)

      Huh? The theoretical possibilities aren't important -- what matters is what this drive can do, at least when you start talking about price. Physical holograms can no more hold infinite data than analog film has infinite resolution -- there are limitations somewhere, be they high or low. If you push close to those limitations, it won't be scratch resistant -- how resistant it is to damage depends on how much error correction you have, be it in the form of not using the full available resolution or by using electronic ECC techniques. (Care to guess which one is more efficient? Care to guess which one CDs and DVDs use?)

      As for longevity -- there's no particular reason the plastics in the holographic storage will have any longer life than CDs or DVDs. If they say it'll last 50 years, then I'm inclined to believe they used decent plastics. But, you can get CD / DVD media that's rated for 300 years. It doesn't matter what damage sources holograms are "theoretically" susceptible to, what matters is what *this product* is susceptible to. Perhaps it doesn't delaminate, but what about heat / humidity / CD eating bacteria [bbc.co.uk]?

      For archival media, my biggest concern would be whether I can find a reader in 50 years. I think the odds of that are a lot better for CD / DVD than for this -- though if I really care, it definitely needs some sort of maintenance program to make sure the data is intact and readable.

      • by EdIII (1114411) *
        Hey, look I agree with you. Theory and practice are 2 different things. I am referring to what they state the product has no. I did not put any real emphasis on infinite data but more so on the ability of sacrificing total capacity for some recovery capability. Also, it seems that a scratch can be mitigated by simply reading it from a slightly different angle. I dunno the exact technical way to do this, but they at least mention that some recovery is possible right around a scratch.

        As for the longevity,
        • by evanbd (210358)

          100 year DVDs [datamediastore.com] are $108 for 50. I believe 300 year CDs are similar technology and price.

          The question isn't whether the technology to read these in 50 years will exist, it's whether I can buy a reader off the shelf. Sure, for truly critical data, you might be able to reconstruct a reader in 50 years -- but for most purposes, that's not practical. There are plenty of things that I might want to store that long that don't have thousands of dollars worth of budget to recover them. What I really care about

    • by Hao Wu (652581)

      CD's and DVD's long shelf life is a MYTH. Most of them are not manufactured to last longer then 5-10 years.

      WHAT?! I originally adopted CDs because of this widespread promise:

      "The Compact Disc Digital Audio System offers the best possible sound reproduction -- on a small, convenient disc. The Compact Disc's remarkable performance is the result of a unique combination of digital playback with laser optics. For the best results, you should apply the same care in storing and handling Compact Discs as with c

    • Re:Price (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @12:09AM (#23132480)
      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.

      Um, yea, for a 2D analog photograph. For binary data this is completely irrelevant and meaningless. There ain't no such thing as a low-quality, low resolution bit.

      2. Data density is theoretically unlimited. I guess. Unless you start talking about the limits of the information density of your physical medium, or the resolution and accuracy of your read/write process. Whatever you might think, a single atom can only store so many bits.

      Another factor: photographic media has the longest proven lifespan - over a century - of any modern media. Sure, if by "proven" you mean look at all those photos I print that are already fading. Oh, you mean those old chemical and film photos? I didn't realize this holographic disk whatever uses film and photo processing. Let's not go back to that again, please, no.

      Since there's no physical contact you can read the media millions of times with no degradation. This certainly beats a normal hard disks, where the read head uses a little mini back hoe to scoop up parts of the disk and feed them to the sensor, then has to glue them back in place. And CDs lets not forget. Teh lazers! They rulz?

      Holographic media is not affected by EM fields.

      Yup, just like flash storage, CDs, printouts, and punchcards. Or maybe you just forgot part? Let me help. Holo disks are also impervious to physical damage, light, lasers, fire, vibration, scratches, dust, EM, radiation.

      To be REALLY safe with your data you would have remove all single points of failure. A single hard drive on a shelf IS a single point of failure, as is a CD/DVD. So you would need to be constantly "rolling" over the data in multiple RAIDS with snapshots, while at the same time, verifying the integrity with checksums before every snapshot. To take it one step further, multiple locations that synchronize over high speed networks... iSCSI?

      With this new holo stuff, you can just take your data (or what you think is your data (and which might be corrupt already) or not yours, or incomplete, or broken already) and throw it at this holo disk thing. And then forget about it! By the magic of holo storage, whatever you had meant to put on the disk will eventually be there. Along with the stuff you actually put there. And the fixed up and corrected versions of both of those. And the one where your spelling typos have been fixed up, and your girlfriend's photo looks like (oh, wait, no gf? nevermind then.).

      Apparently a holographic medium can be written with "hundreds of holograms being stored in the same physical area".

      OMG! A single box! On your desk! with hundreds (hundreds!!) of pieces of data on it! At the! Same! Time!

      But apparently, it sure sounds to me like I might hazard a guess that if you look up, your boss might have left the office, so you can stop shilling now.
      • Your entire post is flawed. I know you're trolling, so I'm going to limit myself to one correction.

        There ain't no such thing as a low-quality, low resolution bit.

        Ever heard of ECC? It's all the rage in storage media...

        -:sigma.SB

        • I wouldn't be so sure that he was. He tackled the major flaws in the marketing material quite well.

          There is no such thing as a low resolution bit. Even with ECC the resolution of a bit is still 2. Think about that for a while - I am not aware of a single error code that allows you to drop the number of discrete states lower than two and can still reconstruct the data.

          Low quality is a little less well defined. In the analogy that the AC was busting apart the low-quality was the actual degradation of the cont
      • a single atom can only store so many bits.

        Right, sorry for the nitpick, but "so many bits" is actually quite a few. First of all if you take a fairly typical iron atom, say Fe-56 , then it consists of 26 electrons, 26 protons and 30 neutrons. Each of the nucleons are in turn composed of 3 quarks, and these quarks exchange virtual gluons (we think ). The nucleons themselves exchange virtual pions. Now, in its ground state iron has 4 electron shells, each of which has sub-shells and orbitals etc... If you sti

    • You are totally right about most other options not being reliable, the worst being HDDs; you need to keep those spinning regularly and replace them every few years.

      People are still reading their decades old MO discs that have been left on the shelf.

      Lots of organizations have the need to archive their data and currently the only game in town are MO ($10/GB) and UDO (slightly less) with drives costing $3000+.

      That makes the TCO of an 18K drive with 50c/GB very, very attractive to this market and that is what t
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ruie (30480)

      Solid State Hard drives are better off than spinning ones for sure, but still suffer from the same problems with an EM field AFAIK.

      This is not quite correct. Sure, if you zap them with a large enough static charge it will burn out the chips - but this is more likely to apply to the interface chips rather than the flash that carries data. Flash is also susceptible to radiation. Otherwise it is pretty robust.

      Holographic storage however, likely relies on some sort of photo-sensitive dye or phase change materi

    • by Kjella (173770)

      CD's and DVD's long shelf life is a MYTH.

      Yes, we know that... NOW. What shelf life does holographic media have? Oh right, they say 50-100 years so I should believe their marketing but not that other one. As a side note, stamped media looks to do much better than burned media and last much longer than 10 years. In the end I wouldn't trust any one media, the only salvation is parity and redundancy as the holographic discs could be physically destroyed too. Then it's a matter of cost, and there's the cost today and there's the cost in 10, 20 and 50

    • My main question is, why should I believe the media will actually last 50 years? According to design specs, current optical media should last at least that long. But even the well made stuff barely lasts 1/3 the time. We won't know for sure until at least 15 years from now how well the holographic discs actually hold relative to a high quality optical media, or if something unexpected will cut their reliable life to a small fraction of what is expected.
    • by Minupla (62455)
      One market segment that will probably jump on this. Governments. Many governments are required by law to archive all important documents. I worked for the archive division of a comparably small regional (state equiv) govt in Canada, and the measures and expense they went through to ensure that the data was still readable, even when it started off on 8" floppies was impressive.

      When the law says you MUST preserve data, 18k is not a lot of money to toss at the project. Heck a core router runs you 70k to ge
    • by sjames (1099)

      To be REALLY safe with your data you would have remove all single points of failure. A single hard drive on a shelf IS a single point of failure, as is a CD/DVD. So you would need to be constantly "rolling" over the data in multiple RAIDS with snapshots, while at the same time, verifying the integrity with checksums before every snapshot. To take it one step further, multiple locations that synchronize over high speed networks... iSCSI?

      That's exactly the thing. Multiple HDs are by far the cheapest way to store data and can be as safe as anything else, but it's really an active storage method. It's only safe if the drives spin up from time to time, get re-verified and replaced every few years (failed or not).

      What's really desired is a more passive archival system. Write it here (with a copy here) and put it on a shelf somewhere. In 50 years blow the dust off and read it back.

      At one time the uestion about tape was how many copies of t

  • The data retention time is, in fact, 50 years. If the data turns out to be usable through the years than this will turn out to be invaluable. The film industry currently has a crisis on their hands where more and more "garbage" video of sets when no filming is going on and alternate scenes, interviews and all the things we see on the "extra features" sections on those fancy new blu-ray and DVD discs. They need some way to safely and easily store that media for many, MANY years before the common media sup
  • by slashqwerty (1099091) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:19PM (#23132220)
    Their main selling point is longevity. You can store the data on a disk and read it back 50 years from now. Will this company even exist 50 years from now? Will anyone have the equipment to read one of these disks in 50 years? Have they published the specs so you can construct your own equipment, should it become necessary? I don't see this working out. Archiving needs to be done with well-known open standards. InPhase doesn't seem to be off to a very good start in that respect.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dunbal (464142)
      You can store the data on a disk and read it back 50 years from now.

            Oh the RIAA and MPAA are not going to like THAT. Cue the yearly fee to access your movies/music.
  • LTO-4 tape:
    A drive is $5000, and an 800 GB tape is $120. Magnetic tape has a very long, provable, verified and *good* track record at being able to retain data. I've read 30 year old 9-track reels, and have cassettes from the 70's that'll still play.

    Their drive is 3x the price, and their media is 50% more expensive for half the space. Their only benefit is the holographic media is random access. Bah. If it's for archiving, who cares about random access?

    This gadget smells like fail. Their *only* niche is pro
  • InPhase Technologies announces it will also be releasing Duke Nukem Forever by the end of the year.
    • by Kamineko (851857)
      Only available on InPhase Holocube(TM).
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dunbal (464142)
      InPhase Technologies announces it will also be releasing Duke Nukem Forever by the end of the year.

            Problem is, they forgot to mention WHICH year. As usual.

            I pre-ordered my copy of Duke anyway.
    • Wow, is there anything they can't do? Next year it'll be a flying car and a space elevator! Oh and full DirectX 9 & 10 compatability for WINE!
  • Target Market? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sat1308 (784251)
    From TFA:
    Which gets us to InPhase's target market: archiving. That's why they were showing at NAB.

    I don't get it. No matter how valuable your content, why would you pay $18,000 for a burner and $180 for for a 300GB disc? Just for the price of the media, you can mirror your data across three different brand-new hard disks. Surely the odds of 3 hard disks failing at the same time are lower than that of an untested, brand-new technology with no redundancy?

    Maybe I'm too thick, but why would anyone buy t
  • Lest it slip by (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @12:13AM (#23132500) Journal
    - We were also told CD and DVD storage was long lived. While 30 years can be expected of a few of the highest grade disks http://club.cdfreaks.com/f33/taiyo-yuden-faq-178622/ [cdfreaks.com] 3 years is what most of them manage. Theoretical limits typically don't make it past manufacturers.

    - It may indeed last 50 years, but will the equipment it's to be connected to? I've got the first 100MB drive to hit the market. It has lots of stuff on it I want to retrieve. It's a good thing I've kept the 18 year old Apple IIgs it's inside of operating.

    Better implemented on solid state holographic storage, but still possible on disk, is the reverse processing of image to beams. (There's a SciAm article from 1995 or so on holographic storage, particularly solid state, that covers this).

    Store lots of images on the disk. Illuminate it with a hologram of a target image. Out of each image comes copies of the original reference beams, at a strength proportional to the similarity of the stored image to the target image. Nearly instantaneous, simultaneous retrieval with correlation score built into the signal strength. Lost is the different angles that'd be had in a solid state device, so scanning the disk for reading all the beams and finding those of interest might take a bit longer. The entire US government fingerprint files could fit on one disk and the whole thing searched in seconds, as is often seen on TV. Using it for movie storage makes marketing sense, especially with the initial price tag of $18,000 and disks being $180. But leaving it at that would be a damn shame.
  • I wonder if the porn we "archive" on it will show up in 3d if we open it up and view the hologram... see it take a life of its own by giving it so much data in a small area :)
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @01:45AM (#23132812)
    Holographic technology turned into a functioning read/write data system? --Just the idea is SO totally cool! The linear storage we've seen to date has been like the Formula One race track of development, and people have come up with some very clever techniques to squeeze every scrap of use out of it, but really, we've been locked in two dimensions for all this time. Adding a third dimension is watershed stuff. Talk about blasting Moore's Law out of orbit!

    Think about those early 10 megabyte hard drives. Take that form factor and blow it up over the same length of time and you get some crazy-huge numbers. A third dimension to play with? That's like going from DC to AC in terms of complexity and possibility. Interestingly enough, the establishment resisted AC as well. I half suspect that the math simply demanded more brain power than the old school engineers were willing or able to invest.

    I remember the day when a roommate took the indoor cat out to the roof. The cat saw the sky for the first time and wet itself, flattened right to the ground and was basically reduced to a form of catatonia. After living in a one-floor apartment, (two-dimensional), being presented with a whole lot of up and down created a great deal of irritation.


    -FL

    • "The linear storage we've seen to date has been like the Formula One race track of development, and people have come up with some very clever techniques to squeeze every scrap of use out of it, but really, we've been locked in two dimensions for all this time. Adding a third dimension is watershed stuff."

      Whoa, whoa -- slow down, egghead!
  • by PrimeWaveZ (513534) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @02:54AM (#23133042)
    I remember hearing about the 4.6GB of storage back in the mid-90s, and it was quite underwhelming when it came out. MO never really took off, long-term. This, I think, may be different.

    If the technology in this stuff pans out and can be developed economically and scale well over time (MO didn't), I think it has some real opportunities to take off in certain sectors. It's not for everyone, but neither are rackmounted RAIDs, iSCSI and tape loaders.

    For naysayers: do any of you think that this company WANTS to release a boat anchor device like it seems to be going by their pictures? If what the company says is true, and this is not vaporware, the physical size of the drive may be a worthwhile trade-off in terms of capacity and reliability. As technology is developed, processes shrink, things get cheaper, and storage capacity gets bigger. I remember old MO drives being big, and as some pointed, out, a single CD-R costing $40.

    I'm not going to buy this thing, but I'll certainly be watching its development in the marketplace. It's interesting to watch, just like I did the Apex back in the day.
  • by PrimeWaveZ (513534) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:00AM (#23133056)
    Which means there is no going back once the disk is written.

    Just thought I'd mention it.

    http://www.inphase-technologies.com/products/default.asp?tnn=3 [inphase-technologies.com]
    • by grm_wnr (781219)
      That is, for some applications (i.e., archival), a plus. In my opionion, the biggest danger of using HDDs as backup, is not EM, platter failure or anyting else, it's some dunce just going there and erasing it. Happens more often than you think. Not a problem with WORM, if you can afford it.
  • Can you stick these media on the hull of a ship, sail it around the world and then read the data?
  • This has got to be about the sixth time this company has gotten astroturfed onto Slashdot, always with a product "just around the corner." I'll believe it when I see one on a data floor.

    In any case, it is a whole big pile of useless. Let's go over the flaws, keeping in mind the alleged target market for long-term archive storage. (As opposed to their last "target market" of near-line storage. Since it's only WORM, that kind of shot that down. Whoops!) In this market, the competition is tape, NOT hard
    • If they can't get the price down to the level of a consumer product, then yes, it's doomed.

      Tape has become too expensive for the consumer market, though. I don't know if this was the cause of or a result of the increasing concentration of the tape industry during the '90s, but the result is that the only credible backup media for the consumer is hard disks. If their media is $180 for 300 GB it's cheaper to buy a disk drive than a cartridge.

      And that goes for tape, too. I struggled with home tape backup for y
  • It's an improvement for digital storage mediums for sure, but still pales in comparison to film-based archiving. Microfilm has a life expectancy of 500 years [wikipedia.org] under proper storage conditions. A film-based archival master backed by multiple digital archival master and "use" copies is still the way to go.
  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:30AM (#23133766)
    It's really embarassingly bad. It makes 2 claims:

          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.

    This is complete nonsense. A fragment provides a *reduced quality* duplicate of the data image. This is not so bad for photographs, but for digital data it's critical. Bit basic information theory says you can't recover the full image without actually storing the full image.

          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.

    Again, complete horse hockey pucks. Storage of additional images on a physical medium is certainly possible, but the ability to control the aforesaid 'angle' and recover meaningful data is not infinite. It's limited by the theoretical factors like optical diffraction and resolution, and by the spatial resolution of normal matter made up of real molecules.
    • by sribe (304414)
      You missed one, dude:

      3) No degradation while reading. While this may be true of familiar types of holograms, it is most certainly not true of read/write holographic materials. In fact, degradation of signal during read is one of the biggest problems that held this technology back for so many years.
      • Good point. That's a subtlety of the particular technology, though. It's not a basic violation of the laws of physics to claim it's true for this approach, unlike the claims of infinite storage and no data loss from corrupting part of the media.
  • Looks like I can say hello to a new format way, skip out an Blu-Ray, and look forward to my super-extra-dooper HD HD TV, with accompanying storage, where I still can't tell much of a difference.

    Truth is, this would probably be a sweet format for distributing digital movies to cinemas.
  • by smoker2 (750216)
    I thought IBM would be the first to market with this technology. I remember reading a report from them last century (can't find it now) but I did find this [ibm.com] from 1999.

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