GE's Holographic Disk Breakthrough

High-density optical storage has been a tough way to make a living. Most of the players have gone bust or moved on to other business

Howard Marks

April 30, 2009

2 Min Read
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There I was drinking my first cup of coffee and reading the New York Times, and I almost did a spit take that would have made the great Danny Thomas proud when I saw "GE's Breakthrough Can put 100 DVDs on a Disc" in the technology section. My first reaction was "Oh, no, someone else is being seduced by the science fiction, or at least lab curiosity, that holographic storage has always been."

While I'd love nothing better than to have Star Trek data crystals packing the 15 exabytes that a holodeck program, like Vic Fontaine and his lounge use, must take in sugar-cube size... high-density optical storage -- be it holographic or not -- has been a tough way to make a living. Plasmon, and the rest of the MO (Magneto-Optical ) players, have either gone bust or just moved on to other business. InPhase alone has promised to deliver their 300-GB holographic Tapestry system in six to 12 months or so since 2005. The two-photon 1-TB optical system they were promising for this year seems to have killed off Call/Recall, as their old URL now points to a Network Solutions parking page.

A technology that, like GE's, used standard 120mm discs to store 500 GB would be an intriguing option for deep archive and last-chance copy type applications. After all, optical disks on the shelf, or in the warehouse, use very little power for environmental control and can easily store data for 20 years or more. A single drive and library could be used to access CD, DVD, Blu-Ray and the new format disks, providing much easier migration and long-term access than most "spinning rust"-based (I know they haven't used actual oxide for years, but spinning alloy doesn't have the same ring) systems.

Before you get all excited, GE didn't announce a disk, drive, and system this week. All they really said was they developed the plastic that could be written, like a DVD, by boosting the laser power and read with a low power laser. Using a 405nm laser like Blu-ray, they would get 500 GB on a standard 120mm disk. As far as I'm concerned, that puts it in the lab curiosity class. Oh well.

On the other hand 512 GB of flash should be down to $100 by 2013 or so. Could that be the future?The Times article is here and GE's own report is here.

Howard Marks is chief scientist at Networks Are Our Lives Inc., a Hoboken, N.J.-based consultancy where he's been beating storage network systems into submission and writing about it in computer magazines since 1987. He currently writes for InformationWeek, which is published by the same company as Byte and Switch.

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About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at:

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