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GE Bets On Holographic Optical Storage 159

Lucas123 writes "Years after announcing they had developed holographic optical disc technology that could store 500GB of data, GE this week said they're preparing to license the technology to manufacturing partners. At the same time, InPhase, which failed to actually get its holographic disc product out the door for years, says GE's product is nothing more than a 'science project,' and its own optical disc is almost ready to go to market — again. But, as one analyst quipped, the old joke about optical disc is that 'there's more written about optical disc than stored on it.'"
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GE Bets On Holographic Optical Storage

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 28, 2011 @11:03AM (#36908442)
    Geeks that know every single Linux kernel variation, can compile any code, are very accurate when it comes to their knowledge, but somehow can't tell IT IS from ITS. I think it would take a few decades of research, but if we could raise an entire generation that could understand the apostrophe, it would be worth it. The same people who have no problem with operator overloading don't seem to grasp the simplicity of the possessive pronouns.
    • std::string reply = "your wrong.";
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Baloroth ( 2370816 )
      Aw, common, its' to hard to always remember all the rules of written language. English sure has it's exceptions which we just have to put up with. Me and you might find it annoying, but you're point is not relevant sense we all know what the summary means. Addressing just this minor point to the summary writer might be a bit insensitive to he.
      • by cp.tar ( 871488 )

        You mean, miner point and summery writer.

      • The problem is not so much with whether you know the rules or not.

        I know more about English spelling, syntax, and semantics than your average grammar nazi, but my fingers are always typing stuff wrong. (Okay, okay, "incorrectly".)

        (This has been getting worse. The better I speak, read, and write Japanese, the more I make odd mistakes with English.)

        If I notice, I correct it. If not, well, their I am post in a hurry so I can get bcak to wrok.

        Lousy autonomous nervous system.

    • by deblau ( 68023 )

      I have an easy solution. English teachers should start immediately returning the student's papers with a grade of 0%, and a note attached that reads

      paper.c:5: error: apostrophe unexpected after "it"
      paper.c:7: error: apostrophe unexpected after "it"
      paper.c:13: error: apostrophe unexpected after "it"
      paper.c:18: error: apostrophe unexpected after "it"

      • Which student's papers? It seems unfair to pick on one of them. Did you mean students' papers?

        I'm not trying to be picky (well, I am) but I'm beside myself seeing all the mistakes in replies to the parent!

        • by PARENA ( 413947 )

          Which student's papers? It seems unfair to pick on one of them. Did you mean students' papers?

          Please mod this up, come on! :)))

  • What's interesting about these systems is that they're being developed for backup purpose by the computer industry, and not by the movie industry. That means that hardware will be in production and quite probably in place before the media groups start to even think about their next DRM / license encrusted format. Sure, they'll probably still try to compete, but given the initial cost of Bluray and the rather long time it's taken to come down they may well not be able to if even a few major studios start r

    • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @11:54AM (#36909224)

      That means that hardware will be in production and quite probably in place before the media groups start to even think about their next DRM / license encrusted format.

      Work began on the next-generation codec in 2004:

      HEVC aims to substantially improve coding efficiency compared to AVC High Profile, i.e. reduce bitrate requirements by half with comparable image quality, probably at the expense of increased computational complexity. Depending on the application requirements, HEVC should be able to trade off computational complexity, compression rate, robustness to errors and processing delay time.

      HEVC is targeted at next-generation HDTV displays and content capture systems which feature progressive scanned frame rates and display resolutions from QVGA (320x240) up to 1080p and Ultra HDTV (7680x4320), as well as improved picture quality in terms of noise level, color gamut and dynamic range.

      The timescale for completing the HEVC standard is as follows:

      February 2012: Committee Draft (complete draft of standard)
      July 2012: Draft International Standard
      January 2013: Final Draft International Standard (ready to be ratified as a Standard)

      High Efficiency Video Coding []

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Swapping out media? Tapes have hit 1.5TB raw and if you are too poor/cheap for tape, like most folks, use hdds.

      • Optical media has a couple things going for it over tape:

        The media is composed of 20 stacked layers of 25GB each. It is conceivable that with sufficient focusing, they can simply continue stacking layers as needed.

        Despite images floating around the internet, optical disks can be accessed randomly, and there is no need for a 'DVD Rewinder'. You don't need to spend time spooling to the specific location you need before you can read the data.

        They are very thin, meaning you can store half a dozen or more disk

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          But they are damn slow in linear writes compared to tape.

          • True. 5MB/s access speeds is painfully slow compared to the 100MB/s+ that linear tape and hard drives see. Presumably they will improve this before sending to market. There is no much use to a medium that takes 28 hours to fill.
    • I think that the problem is that BluRay was the wrong thing at the wrong time, coupled with being involved in a format war with HD-DVD for several years.

      I'm not saying Blu-Ray is good or bad. I don't own the gear, so I can't comment there, What I can comment on is that DVD looks good enough on my HDTV, even though it does not look as nice as the broadcasts do. It also sounds good enough, as AC3, despite being lossy, is a pretty darned good codec. I gather that a lot of people have taken this point of vie

      • by hitmark ( 640295 )

        BR should have been sold for computer storage first, home video second. So far HDTV have been a marketing flop, and a replay of the flop that was high bitrate audio discs. Said discs used DVD as the physical layer, but was otherwise the same as a CD in its logical layout. Same number of tracks and so on, only higher encoding bitrate pr track. Likely few have ever heard of it.

        this because first of, CD was "good enough". Second, because they did not give a physical benefit over CD. By this i mean that when CD

  • 500GB, but considering years old Blue-Ray stores 50gb and magnetic drives, and flash drives which can store a lot of data and now are relativity small and cheap, and more and more people are use to saving and retreading Data via "Cloud" or network type storage, It may be dead on arrival.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Thavilden ( 1613435 )
      Maybe too late for consumer use, but I can see companies that wouldn't want to put their information in the cloud using them for backup. If their shelf life is longer than other optical media it may also be put to good use for archival in libraries and musuems.
    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      more and more people are use to saving and retreading Data via "Cloud" or network type storage

      As I understand it, this product is designed for applications that wouldn't work with the kind of monthly transfer cap that comes with a home or small business Internet plan.

      • Unless we're talking about areas with no infrastructure at all, then broadband and data caps will increase long before this is commercially viable. Consider how much CD burners cost initially, and it was the same for DVD and Blu-ray. Not to mention, the first ~2 generations of each were A) slow, and B) unreliable. Broadband is already here and there's already a legislative push in most countries to get it to every home. This really is a "science project".
        • broadband and data caps will increase long before this is commercially viable

          Optical discs can be used in a vehicle. To transfer one dual layer BD's worth of data over mobile broadband would take ten months.

          • Ok, that's one example. How much media consumption takes place in vehicles, of any type? You can't give the general "mobile/smartphone" example because these devices don't have optical drives, so we're left between the not-at-home and not-walking-around space. How large is that market?
            • i'd point to the people with kids market. It would be great to be able to put 500GB of ripped Barney, Sesame Street etc DVDs on a single disk for playback on the car media system. There are other people in the car not engaged in driving that would like some entertainment.
              • I already do this, but it's compressed down to about 15 GB, which works just fine for the screens in a car/van. And it's on my ipod, plugged into the A/V port in the van.

              • Why not stick those on a shock mounted mobile hard drive? Your application doesn't seem like it needs the decades of media lifetime, or the costs it entails.
                • by tepples ( 727027 )
                  Then how do you get the videos from the publisher to your mobile hard drive in the first place without running up against ISPs' caps?
            • by tepples ( 727027 )

              How much media consumption takes place in vehicles, of any type?

              Let me guess: you don't take airplanes, buses, or family car trips often.

        • The problem is the "legislative push" aspect of it. Now if you have a strong dictator that isn't an issue but given how fickle the political winds are I wouldn't bet on a legislative push being the solution.
          • How about market demand? Numerous large corporations need the end-user to have broadband so that they (the corporations) can make more money off them. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon -- they all really want you to have hefty pipes. And Walmart just added streaming rentals. The fickle politicians can be as fickle as they want -- the economy demands broadband, it's inevitable.
      • As I understand it, this product is designed for the kind of companies that don't have monthly transfer caps to worry about, and can spend millions on a large data vault.
    • In the "cloud" there is still physical media somewhere.

      • You mean datacenters. When you need additional space, are you going to install new hard drives, or install optical drives with those robotic disc swappers? What's going to cost more and is more likely to fail? Which one's faster and more flexible?
        • I know for a fact some startups are trying to make optical hard drives. Identical form factor to a typical hard drive but it's got optical disks instead of magnetic platters. Personally I think it's DOA. Magnetic HDs are super cheap and SSDs are super fast, durable and are very versatile. I'm just not sure where the demand will come from for optical HDs. Any ideas?
          • Sounds like it would be useful to store OS & programs for a kiosk based computer. Plenty of space. (presumably) cheaper than a magnetic drive. And (presumably) read-only media could actually be a plus.

        • While I agree with you completely, you would only need relative cheap carousel loaders, not the big robotic loaders you see on tape archives. Sony makes a handful of them for DVDs that store between 200 and 400 disks, around a central reader.
  • I consider myself one of the last holdouts - I still use my optical drive occasionally - but even I'd have to admit that it's a dying technology. By the time they get this to market everything will be solid state and/or in the cloud. Oh well, I was excited about these high capacity optical disks five to ten years ago. Now I just feel bad someone's wasting their r&d time and money on it.

    • So, tell me where you subscribe to a cloud based backup service with 500gb of storage, and you can push data to at 20mb/second.

      • If you re-read my comment, you'll notice I made a point to mention local storage too. I do not believe the cloud will completely replace local storage in the foreseeable future, but by the time these optical disks get to market something like a 500GB USB3 thumb drive will be commonplace and will most likely outperform them in speed, price, and reliability. Even if they released this tech right now, it would have a hard time competing against cheap traditional HDDs.

        If you'd care to wager whether this tech wi

    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      500GB is 2x the highest capped home data plan in the US right now. Unless something radical happens to open up the last mile in the next few years (which is VERY doubtful given current economic and political realities) I don't think this kind of technology is without a market.
    • by AJH16 ( 940784 )

      I use my optical drives for some output, but the main killer of optical drives is not the cloud, but rather the low cost of HDDs. When you can get a 2TB HDD for $100 it really isn't worth spending $1 per 25gb optical disk ($80 for that same 2TB and far more of a nuisance to work with). Give me an optical solution that is 1/4 the price again like DVDs were back in the day and I will switch back to optical backups in a huge way. Small files move on reusable USB sticks or the cloud and backup is just straig

      • The advantage of optical disks is that they are cheap and easy to post. If (and that's a big 'if') 500GB disks can be made cheaply, then you can just burn one and pop it in the post every week, and you've got off-site backups for the cost of one stamp. If you need them back, first class post will get them returned to you the next day, very cheaply.
        • How is that any different than a 500GB hard drive? The box is slightly bigger, but so what?

          • Try posting a 500GB hard drive every week, then try posting a CD-sized letter every week, and see what the difference is. Aside from cost, there's also the fact that the letter will be slipped through the letter box without any problems, while the hard disk needs someone in to receive it.
            • Everywhere I've ever worked that was big enough to want offsite data storage, there's been a shipping/receiver position. Cost? Maybe $100/yr. Not enough to be meaningful.

              • Sorry, I was talking about home users. If you're a company, then your off-site backup will usually be taken by an employee to a safe somewhere. For a home user, popping an optical disk in the post is much cheaper than shipping a hard drive. Especially if you're posting them to a relative who doesn't live nearby, because then you can use the cheaper WORM disks and not need to worry about getting them back unless you have to do a restore. If you're using hard drives, you'd need them to post them back for
    • by alen ( 225700 )

      blu rays in the cloud? even itunes is a niche for movie purchases.

      $30 for a blu ray/dvd/digital file combo plus a bunch of extras is a good deal. the whole home server rip everything to NAS and stream over wifi is niche as well

    • by ZenDragon ( 1205104 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @11:39AM (#36909014)
      Except what they are talking about is not your typical old opitical disk technology. They are basically talking about storing data in a 3 dimensional photosensitive material. I read an article in Wired a while back that was talking about something like a 500GB capacity in a 1cm square block I believe. Its much more efficient than magnetic storage, and more resilient than non-volitile solid state storage. The technology holds a lot of promise I think if they can make it affordable. GE is appears to be intent on preparing it in a disc configuration, but if this technolgy becomes readily available I would imagine we might start seeing things like the crystals in Supermans fortress of solitude with terabytes of capacity. I really dont understand enough about the technology to speak on its limitations and roadblocks, but the possibilities are fascinating to say the least.
  • A risky bet (Score:2, Interesting)

    by whiteboy86 ( 1930018 )
    Mechanically driven spinning disks technologies? Are they easy to manufacture? Nope. Cheap? Nope. Simple? Nope. Future proof? Nope. Bug free? Nope. Patent free? Nope. Fast and solid state? Nope.
    • Cheap? Nope. [...] Fast and solid state? Nope.

      I'm not sure what you mean by this. How much does it cost to press 1000 DVDs for distribution to end users, compared to storing the files on 1000 8 GB USB flash drives? Or 1000 BDs compared to 1000 32 GB USB flash drives? Sneakernetting large data to end users is where optical media still shines.

      • Replication or mass distribution? That is what the net and the cloud is for. Apple has ditched the optical drive already and for a good reason, all digital content we buy should be in the "cloud" and then downloaded only when needed to some local memory (flash). I can delete any game in my Steam account for space reasons and download it quickly again next year including cloud stored saves.. Why would I want to keep some unreliable physical media around? That is so last century. This tech. might help in some
      • How much does it cost to press 1000 DVDs for distribution to end users

        Can you actually "press" holographic media? I thought the whole purpose of using holographs as proofs of authenticity was because they were difficult and expensive to produce.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          Can you actually "press" holographic media?

          Even if not, DVD-R duplication is still cheaper than flash memory duplication.

    • You forgot:

      Going away anytime soon? Nope.

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @11:48AM (#36909136)

    Because judging by the local bestbuy store there's a fuckton of stuff stored on optical disc just in the bluray section.

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      Heh... Holographic storage has been in the making since the 50's when they figured out that they might be able to do it. And about every 5-10 years, they trot out a new big "push" to plug the new concept in the tech, this time with discs as opposed to something more akin to Star Trek's "isolinear chips", which is what they were on about some 2 or so decades ago.

      • Exactly. 500Gb on one disk. Even in a standard hard drive form-factor with 2 disk platters that's still only 1Tb. I can buy a magnetic HDD from Newegg today with 2Tb for $100. What problem is being solved by trading magnetic platters with optical ones? And at what cost? Just another glittery idea for VCs to waste their capital on.
        • by hitmark ( 640295 )

          Well there is the, imo, often overlooked issue of the HDD being a sealed unit. Drive hardware or control board dies, and it is game over (unless your willing to fork the cash for that clean room dissection). With optical or tape, if the hardware dies you can replace it with a equal unit and still access the media.

          • But because it's not sealed and it's being inserted, removed, handled, used as a coaster and whatnot, the optical disk will be at least a hundred times more likely to be damaged, with no chance of recovery. It's much slower than a hard disk, too.

            • by hitmark ( 640295 )

              Well a complete recovery may not be possible. But optical media, at least at present, have redundancies built into the data format. Also, back when CD-ROM was new, i think some designers considered a caddy system. Basically something similar to a over-sized diskette. Sony had a magnetoptical format called Minidisc that was used for portable music playback. And i seem to recall MO drives also being sold for backup use. Basically this is a kind of optical media that is written much like a HDD. This by heating

      • But the claim^Wjoke was "optical" not "holographic", and I simply can't believe more has been written about optical storage than has been stored on it considering all the CDs, DVDs, Blurays, laser discs in existance.

  • Holographic store devices have been "just 10 years away" for the past 30 years.
  • "Stuck also pointed out that InPhase's technology writes data at 20MB/sec compared with Blu-rays data transfer speed of 4.8MB/sec.

    "If they [GE] really do have a 500GB disk, I come up with 100,000 seconds to fill a disc. There's 86,400 seconds in a day. You do the math,"

    Hmm... 500,000MB / 20MB/sec = 25,000 sec. =~7 hours

  • Doesn't seem all that great when modern versions [] of old technology like tape can store 4TB uncompressed and write at 650MByte/sec per drive. Actually, they will fit significantly more, as the tape drives all do inline compression in hardware. Plus, while dropping it isn't recommended, you can, and its rare to actually have data loss because of it.

    Stack a few dozen drives and a few thousand tapes into a library and there isn't anything on the planet that even comes close as a backup medium in nearly any metr

  • finally coming out with a technology i have seen 12 years ago.....when it was first developed by that indian man...and prototyped.....i bet you if a different company had bought it, it would have seen the light of day much sooner, except that this company is not really a good HDD company, they are ok at i guess had someone like western digital or ibm bought it maybe it would have come around much sooner???

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson