A Nobel Prize for Storage

News of Physics Nobel for disk drive researchers shows the growing importance of data storage

October 10, 2007

2 Min Read
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In what's surely a first for storage technology, two European scientists have won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on disk drive technology. Frenchman Albert Fert, 68, and German Peter Grnberg, 69, will jointly share the $1.5 million award for discovering, separately, the Giant Magnetoresistance or GMR effect in 1988.

Fert works at France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research); Grünberg, at Germany's Research Centre Jülich.

By illuminating the interaction between magnetic and electrical signals when reading data from hard disks, the GMR research paved the way for miniaturization of disk drives in iPods, laptops, and other consumer devices. In awarding the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted that the winners also contributed to the study of nanotechnology, since GMR has led to the use of atom-width layers of substrate for disk read-out heads.

Needless to say, the research points as well to the ongoing search for smaller, faster disk drives – a search that's fundamental to the growth of data storage in any form.

Suppliers continue to push advances in this area. Fujitsu, for one, is at work on technology that could increase the capacity of today's largest, fastest disk drives by a factor of eight.Seagate's got plans for 300-Gbyte 3.5-inch 15,000-RPM hard disk drives by 2010, and 1-Tbyte drives in the same form factor by 2014. And according to a New York Times report last month, IBM has "disk drive chips" on the drawing board of its San Jose, Calif., labs.

All this activity will feed directly into enterprise storage products in years to come. Other advances, including work on solid state disk and other techniques for streamlining physical data storage, are likely to escalate as the importance of storage increases.

The message in all this is something storage managers everywhere realize right now: Storage technology is a major force in the modern technological infrastructure.

As Seagate spokesman David Szabados stated in an email note to Byte and Switch today: "It is nice to see such a high honor being given to people who've worked to advance storage technology, and the recognition also helps validate the significance of storage in our world today." Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Seagate Technology Inc.

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