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Turner Testing Holographic Storage 174

Izmunuti writes "An article in ComputerWorld describes tests by Turner Entertainment of a holographic storage system from InPhase Technologies as a possible replacement for magnetic tape for storing their movies and other programs for playback and broadcast. The article states that each holographic disk holds 300 GBytes." Even more impressive is the cost per terabyte estimated for just a few years down the road.
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Turner Testing Holographic Storage

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  • by w.p.richardson ( 218394 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:29AM (#14061587) Homepage
    Mmmmmm... vapor...
  • by Burz ( 138833 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:30AM (#14061589) Homepage Journal
    That's all I want to know. :-)
  • Bring it on (Score:1, Funny)

    by Kawahee ( 901497 )
    I want one. And I want a Cortana floating over it. And I want her defragmenting my data and writing my school reports on the fly.
  • Holographic? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by carguy84 ( 897052 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:32AM (#14061601)
    Can't find anything about shelf life or connection types. All I could find was that the data was stored in parallel at a million bits at a time.

    Also, 27MB/sec, could that be a typo? Seems awfully slow, no?
    • Re:Holographic? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Arimus ( 198136 )
      Better hope that is a typo as I'd have thought HDTV quality media would require a throughput greater than 27MB/Sec....
      • Re:Holographic? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Friday November 18, 2005 @09:27AM (#14061839)
        Well let us work it out ok.

        HDTV Screen Size is 1920 * 1080 = 2,073,600 so that is the number of pixels on the highest quality HDTV
        2,073,600 Pixels * 30 FPS (Frames per second for DVD Playback) = 62,208,000 Pixels / Second
        Pixel is 24 bits * 62,208,000 Pixels / Second = 1,492,992,000 Bits / Second
        They are 8 bits in a byte so 1,492,992,000 / 8 = 186,624,000 Bytes / second
        1024 Bytes in a Kilo Byte 186,624,000 Bytes/second / 1024 = 182,250 KB/Seconond
        1024 Kilo Bytes in a Mega Byte = 177 Mbs per second. So for screens of random data where no compression can take place that is correct.

        But the tough part to prove because I don't have the numbers is the average rate of data compression per movie. If we are able to keep compression at an average of 1/6 then we could do it. states that HDTV Requires 19.25Mbps for HDTD transmission so I guess it does do the trick.
        • And that's only if the screen is black and white. You need three bits of information per pixel for color.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          The number you get is not 177 Mbs per second, it is 177 MBps (Mega Bytes per second as you say), whyle the number from CNet is 19.25 Mbps (mega bits per second), and it refers to MPEG2 compression of the stream.

          In this case there is plenty of bandwidth available because 19.25 Mbps = 2.40 MBps < 27 MBps. In any case, MPEG4 compression can do much lower bitrates for HDTV video, but I strongly doubt that they will use any kind of lossy compression for their stored archive video.

        • There is plenty of HD video compressed in MPEG-2 sent at 10 to 14 Mbps in cable and broadcast applications. Below 10 it really starts to look horrible all the time.
    • Re:Holographic? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cochonou ( 576531 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:55AM (#14061683) Homepage
      This might not be a typo, if they are talking about writing speed. Most holographic storage technologies depend on chemical reactions for recording. These reactions are a very serious limiting factor to writing speed.
      On the other hand, reading speed can be tremendous. You get a full page of data for each reading operation. Some people will say you can read "at the speed of light", because all it takes to extract a page of data is to let diffract a laser beam through the holographic media. This is not completely true, as you still have to convert the data from its original optical form to an electronic form suitable for computer. This is usually done using arrays of CCD or CMOS detectors, and their speed is the limiting factor when reading data.

      If I can get a hand on several documents that I know to be hiding somewhere on my computer, I will post actual speed figures which might give you a better idea of the typical transfer rates.
      • Re:Holographic? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Cochonou ( 576531 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @09:21AM (#14061804) Homepage
        A bit of followup : this might not be the bleeding-edge figures, as I suppose there have been further advances in the meantime.
        I know that a CMOS detector integration speed of 1ms has been reached several years ago on holographic RAM (I am not talking here about holographic disks). As the integration speed is the limiting factor during the readout, that means you roughly read 1000 pages of data per second.
        Usually, these pages of data are arrays of 1024x1024 values, coded on 256 different brighness levels (therefore equivalent to 8 bits, or one byte). That means you can get a reading speed of 1GB/s on that technology.

        However, I think most of the research nowadays is turned towards holographic disks, because they are more suited to the "write once slowly, read many times quickly" behaviour of holographic memory. The main problem here is to find (or create) an holographic material suitable for this usage. So far, data density has been much lower in holographic disks than in holographic RAM because of this issue.
      • what speed electrons ?
      • If I can get a hand on several documents that I know to be hiding somewhere on my computer, I will post actual speed figures which might give you a better idea of the typical transfer rates.

        I read this and found myself chuckling:

        Futuristic support-desk techie answers phone: "Tech support. Lost data?... Stored holographically?... Um, try leaning a bit to the left or right, and repeating your search."
  • ...until they come out with holographic-RW
    • I'm going to wait until the holographic-RW and holographic+RW are both mature enough that I can get a drive that will handle both. I'm not conviced that holographic*RW is ever going to have enough market share to warrant needing it. ;-)
  • 8" floppies anyone? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ian_mackereth ( 889101 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:34AM (#14061611) Journal
    They'd better hope this technology takes off, or they're going to have lots of terabytes of inaccessible storage in a few years, when the spares for their readers run out...

    Mind you, this is hardly a unique problem, only a large-scale concentration of a wide-spread one.

  • Speed, not size (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:41AM (#14061628)
    The storage solutions are much more lacking in speed/reaction time than in size.

    What I would like to see is not a 1TB harddrive, the size I can get today by buying two harddrives, but rather:

    Speed: It is a real bottleneck, to wait for disk access. SCSI is expensive for the home user still.
    Throughput: What, still under GB/s ?

    Reliability: Since a harddrive is capable storing more and more data, it is more and more important to increase reliability, It takes time to fill up a hard drive, it takes a lot of effort if its a lot of data to backup, so more reliable hard drives would eliminate a lot of problems. I don't care about guarantee, that they exchange the disk if it blows up in x years, my data is still lost then. Let's not even talk about what happens if it's over guarantee period. I'd expect a hard drive to work for five years or so flawlessly, more isn't needed since the technology gets obsolete in that timeframe already.
    • As will all future similar enterprise storage systems... It's The Quality Control Stupid...

      • Tell that to the enterprise-class SCSI drives *I* work with. Quality Control my ass. (And no, I'm not talking about some third-rate storage vendor here -- thank dog for support contracts, we go through WAY too many drives for my liking).

        We'll see if the 15KRPM models are any better than the 10KRPM models.

        I'm not holding my breath.

    • Re:Speed, not size (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thebdj ( 768618 )
      Reliability, well in order to improve that much more you need to change the technology all together. The inherent problem with a hard disk drive is its multitude of moving parts. More times then not when your drive fails it is a mechanical problem of some sort affecting the drive and preventing it from reading/writing properly.

      Now, some people would begin to point to FLASH memory systems. While this could eventually become a good replacement for the hard drive for standard home users in several years,
      • BTW, if you want your data to be safer may I recommend a RAID solution to help maintain your data,

        I agree with GP in that Hard disk drive access time is the major bottleneck on today's personal computers. And while you state that users do not need faster hard drives, I do not agree with you.

        Recently, I configured a PC for my brother. He wanted it for Audio/Video production. I made a nice config with AMD64/Asus/1GB-Ram etc. But the bottleneck of course was the Hard disk, because he will deal with GB of video
        • Of course I know the inherent RAID-0 unsecurity (if 1 disk crashes, bye bye), but anyway, it is the same as if your only disk crashes, and he is really delighted with the speed of his new system.

          While that does make sense, as you increase the number of disks, the expected time before first failure skyrockets.

          For example, with one system I use, the MTBF on an individual drive is nearly 150 years. But in an array of 15 disks, it's within a year or so (I forget) that we expect our first failure.


          • This is a common misconception. MTBF is not very useful when you're only talking about a few drives. It's better to use failure rates, since this is how manufacturers compute MTBF anyway. They test 100 drives for 1 year, and 2 fail. That's a failure rate of 2% per year. Then they figure out, from that, how many years would pass at that initial failure rate before all the drives had failed, and take the mean of the lifetimes. Consider this: If two drives each have a 98% probability of surviving the fi

      • BTW, if you want your data to be safer may I recommend a RAID solution to help maintain your data, if that is too expensive a solution you can probably save some cost with DVD back-ups since I doubt you have a tape drive lying around and they aren't exactly cheap.

        RAID is not a substitute for backing up your data. RAID protects you against a hard disk crash, but does not protect against fire, flood, theft, accidental deletion, or any of a million other things. You always need to have a copy of your backup

    • Because the technology is optical, it shouldn't really be thought of as an equivalent of CD or DVD, but more akin to tape technology for long-term backup. In that respect, its current lab throughput of 27MB/sec is comparable to LTO2 tapes, the projected 160MB/sec for the production version is much higher than most backup technologies today.

      While there is a market for big and fast storage, there are ultimately trade-offs between the two. 1TB in a 12cm disk is going to have some physical limitations, firstly
      • > Because the technology is optical, it shouldn't really be thought of as an equivalent of CD or DVD

        Yes, because this new technology is optical and everyone knows that CD and DVD aren't optical ... they are... um... tiny birds pecking bits into stone tablets...

    • What I'd like to see is RAID-in-a-drive. A few sets of independent head assemblies, maybe dual redundant controller boards or something. The drive would handle all RAID functions and error correction, transparently. Barring catastrophic mechanical failure, this should boost reliability a lot. Go back to fullheight 5.25" hard drives if you have to, it's not like the 3.5" drive sitting in my computer is really filling the bay up.
      • One of the main advantages of RAID (and I'm not including "RAID" 0) is that you can replace just the failed drive, and the controller rebuilds it automatically.

        If you put everything in a single drive, you have to buy a complete replacement when any of the internal parts fail.
    • Re:Speed, not size (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nathanh ( 1214 )

      What I would like to see is not a 1TB harddrive, the size I can get today by buying two harddrives, but rather:

      Speed: It is a real bottleneck, to wait for disk access. SCSI is expensive for the home user still.

      I no longer care about the speed of disks. The speeds are adequate - even high quality video will stream just fine at 15Mbps and my machines never swap - but the problem I have is backups. My home directory alone, containing nothing more than mail and work related documents, is over 15GB. My

    • it takes a lot of effort if its a lot of data to backup

      Large backups should not take much more human effort than small backups, the difference should only be computer and drive time. If it does take a lot of effort, make a script or use an automatable backup program, then do something else while the computer does the work for you.

      Another problem is that you are expecting enterprise grade reliability on consumer grade dirt prices. Reality doesn't work that way.
  • From the article: "Their production version promises to be much faster than tape, but we've not seen that yet," Tarasoff said.

    So we're reading an article about an executive excited about a prototype demo to his bosses involving technology that won't be available for a year or more??? If that's acceptable, then I have a lot of articles to write!

  • R2D2 is suing Turner for infringement, he had this technology a long time ago.
  • I always just put my holograms on my desk. If I get board of them they go near the pencils in the drawe... Oh wait... I should read the article shouldn't I.
  • by DavidHOzAu ( 925585 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:54AM (#14061677)
    but this and []this [] is. Why did the summary only link to the press release and not the info? I had to browse the site a little get some interesting stuff.

    And for my fellow PDF viewing overlords, read this [] this [] and this [].

  • by rindeee ( 530084 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @09:29AM (#14061854)
    I don't understand why companies like this don't opt for just sticking with redundant online storage as opposed to offline such as this. With online, as you upgrade over the years, your archived data gets moved along with, and thus you've no worries about obsolescence of your media or reader. I've heard the argument that the storage space is too costly, though that wouldn't seem to pan out. As time goes by, the MB/GB/TB per dollar will increase, and that data you have archived will become trivial in size pretty quickly. I would think, at least in this sort of application, that a good SAN (where storage is essentially abstracted) would negate the need for this.
  • Impressive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by squoozer ( 730327 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @09:39AM (#14061885)

    If it works that's some pretty impressive technology but I suspect it has a few problems that aren't mentioned that are currently impossible to solve. What makes me think this is the way that all the major electronic manufacturers aren't falling over themselves to buy this company or developer their own version. If this really worked the first person to market would make a fortune. Who knows, maybe they have soved the difficult problems. It would be good if they had.

    • Re:Impressive (Score:2, Informative)

      I think you also have to take into account the pace that the market is willing to accept. Currently the market is saturated with DVDs, optical disc storage for the next generation is in the works (Blu-Ray and HD-DVD), if the masses were able to use holographic storage today for mundane usage, it would actually be harmful to the economy...
  • by Caspian ( 99221 )
    Wow. That comment really makes you sit back and shake your head in amazement.

    Not so long ago, we were talking about which drives gave the best cost per megabyte.

    Now we're talking about cost per terabyte.

    Simply amazing.
  • As soon as... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LTC_Kilgore ( 889217 )
    They figure out how to get managed copy on holographic storage, they'll make the transition
  • Okay, FTFA:

    1.6TB disc for $100 in 5 years (we'll assume Q4 2010)

    Hard drive prices per unit of storage have dropped about 50% per year, give or take a bit.
    (reality check - $80-90 for a 120GB drive was a good price last year at this time, I just got a 250GB drive for $93 last week; in 1987, a 20GB drive was $400, about $20/MB, today, its about $3.72x10-4/MB, about 45% per year)

    So, lets bring that FV back to PV -> $100 in 5 years at (conservatively) 45%. I get about $2000 in today's techmology prices.

    Bad ne
  • by StandardCell ( 589682 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @10:45AM (#14062297)
    I was chatting with one of the engineers regarding this at the National Association of Broadcasters show this year. Apparently, they were just getting things finished off and ready for what was their latest generation of holographic storage. One thing that was interesting is that the maximum data rate was just under the data rate for 720p/1080i (around 680Mbit/s versus ~750Mbit/s). I mentioned to him that he should really try to get the data rate up so that they could record and play back live HD material, but things were apparently wrapped up pretty well by the time I had talked to him. He mentioned a large network that wanted to use this for long-term storage and retrieval of video, presumably to reduce the necessity for large tape robots like StorageTek provides.

    A couple of other interesting facts about the device - the rotational rate of the device is actually extremely slow. You wouldn't see it spinning or even barely moving unless you really looked at it. They use Ultra320SCSI as an electrical interface to the discs. These guys were co-promoting with Maxell in the Maxell booth itself on the media that's in these large cartridges similar to the old MO discs, but larger. The holodiscs themselves were about half an inch thick and were completely transparent, and had excellent archival characteristics and stability (>100 years IIRC). The drives themselves were about the size of a two-drive external SCSI drive box, but fairly long (probably around a foot or slightly longer) and black in color. Media was something like $179 per disc and the drives themselves were $6k-$10k, IIRC. Finally, I asked him why they wouldn't just put the disc into a cube format (read: all your information on your keychain), but he mentioned that the translational control of the cube to read and write the information would be overly complicated electromechanically though it could technically be done.

    My guess is that you won't see this technology filter down to the average joe for at least 5-7 years. Hopefully it'll be worth the wait.
  • by Easy2RememberNick ( 179395 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @11:28AM (#14062655)
    Graphic on InPhase Technologies website: "Imagine Holding 100 movies in the palm of your hand"

      Secretary: "Hello InPhase Technologies, may I help you?"
      Secretary: "Oh hello Mr. Glickman of the MPAA"
      Secretary: "Our CEO Mr. Diaz is in a meeting at the moment, may I take a message?"
      Secretary: "So the message is 'No...effen...way' ?"
  • At 300GB it's still a short generation behind the latest harddrives at 500GB. Although with compression it might serve as a convenient backup medium with a 1:1 relationship to the media being backed up -- provided it's cheap, user writiable, and durable. Would be nice.
  • Did anyone else read that as Turing Testing Holographic Storage?

People who go to conferences are the ones who shouldn't.