Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

GE's Holographic Disk Breakthrough

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?

  • 1