GE's discs use a recording technique called "micro-holographic storage," an optical format similar to DVDs and Blu-ray discs. As a result, players supporting the GE discs could also support Blu-ray discs, standard DVDs, and CDs.
What's unique about holographic storage is its ability to use the entire volume of the disc material and not just the surface, which is the case with the older technologies, GE said. Holograms, or three-dimensional patterns that represent bits of information, are written into the discs and then read out.
Brian Lawrence, head of GE's holographic storage program, said that because GE's technology won't require a separate disc player, "our technology will pave the way for cost-effective, robust, and reliable holographic drives that could be in every home."
"The day when you can store your entire high-definition movie collection on one disc and support high-resolution formats like 3-D television is closer than you think," Lawrence said in a statement.
GE has been working on holographic storage for more than six years. The 500-GB disc is a major milestone in eventually producing discs that can store up to 1 TB of data. In addition to trying to boost capacity, GE researchers have been focused on lowering the bar for adoption by making the technology adaptable to existing optical storage formats and manufacturing techniques.
"GE’s holographic storage program has turned the corner, and with this milestone we can now intensify our efforts in commercialization opportunities," said Bill Kernick, who leads GE’s technology ventures team.
GE plans to release holographic discs first for the commercial archival industry, followed by the consumer market.
GE could one day find a place for holographic storage in its own data center. The company is building an internal or "private" cloud computing environment that's meant to make GE data centers run more efficiently. Today, 60% of new servers put into operation at GE utilize virtualization.
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