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Storing up success: Holographic data storage comes of age

The International Hologram Manufacturers Association US media representative Dr Glenn Wood reports on the development of an exciting new $100 million hologram technology which is set to make an impact on the storage capacity of servers worldwide.

 

Date: 19 Jun 2012

When you post a video on YouTube, have you ever wondered where it is stored? Or where Amazon stores details of all its book and product offerings? Or where downloadable videos are stored? In fact, they are all stored on high powered electronic servers using magnetic storage devices.


However, this in itself is storing up a huge problem as demand for such storage capacity is increasing beyond the ability of conventional data storage media to supply. So called ‘cloud' technology has emerged in recent years encouraging the use of remote digital storage but again, demand is outstripping the ability of conventional storage devices to deliver the capacity required.


Hence the excitement surrounding the emergence of a technology under the hVault brand which utilizes advanced holographic media as the basis of data storage. Expected to undergo site testing towards the end of 2012, with delivery of fully operational systems expected in the first half of 2013, the key to the new system will be the archival storage property of the holographic medium which could potentially be in excess of 50 years.


Although magnetic storage promises 25 years, the reality is that the magnetic tapes need to be backed-up or re-recorded every two to five years and the hardware needs to be replaced every five years. So the real cost of storage on magnetic media is considerably higher than it appears to be at first sight.


According to the InPhase team behind hVault…‘it is true that the access time for magnetic media is around a second or so and for holographic storage it can be up to 10 seconds but, when a user tries to access a CNN video link for example, a 10 second commercial fills interest until the content is accessed. With holographic storage media offering 100 times the capacity of magnetic media, there is really no competition. Large-scale storage used to be measured in terabytes but the industry is now demanding petabytes and exabytes and so systems containing up to 540 discs in a cabinet are going to become the norm'.


Holographic storage systems have the advantage that they consume about one per cent of the power of equivalent magnetic disk storage and can operate without any special power conditioning or cooling - the servers holding ‘cloud' data are now becoming so huge that they are being located close to hydroelectric installations to reduce the energy costs associated with cooling them.


The holographic principle of interference between a reference beam and a programmed object beam apply equally in data storage recording and playback. The polycarbonate holographic discs for the data storage system consist of a layer of photopolymer sandwiched between two discs and the initial major applications for data storage are expected to come from the fields of entertainment, notably videos, medicine and satellite data. The major players in cloud data storage are Amazon, Apple, IBM and Google (owner of YouTube).


It seems that Japanese investors are also interested in the technology because they see it as the next development for Blu-ray and DVDs which have low archival stability and have slow retrieval rates. It may not be too much of a stretch to note that the future of civilization, eastern and western, may depend on the ability of holography to handle the increasingly vast amounts of data being created and requiring storage and management.
The International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) - www.ihma.org - is made up of 90 of the world's leading hologram companies. IHMA members are the leading producers and converters of holograms for banknote security, anti-counterfeiting, brand protection, packaging, graphics and other commercial applications around the world. IHMA member companies actively cooperate to maintain the highest professional, security and quality standards.
 

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Tags: ICT, BC/DR, Compliance, Deduplication, Disk/RAID/Tape/SSDs, Ethernet Storage, SAN/NAS, Tiered Storage, SSDs, Fibre Channel

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