Forgive me for being skeptical, but I’ve been hearing about holographic storage, and how it is the next big thing, for at least ten years now. I’ve even made a few posts about it here in the past. So far not one of the announcements or pronouncements have panned out.
Well, here’s another one, InPhase Technologies has said it will announce its holographic storage product, Tapestry, in May. Since that’s a fairly concrete date, and May is just a week away, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that a real product will be available. However, from The Register is reporting it isn’t going to exactly change the world. The tech specs are respectable – 130mm x 3.5mm plastic discs (just a wee bit larger than the 120mm x 2.2mm of CD, DVD, and Blu-ray) in a cartridge (somewhat like early Blu-ray prototypes) which store up to 300GB using a blue laser. And InPhase claims they’ll hold the data for 50 years. Read/write speeds are 20MB/sec, which is respectable – that’s 160Mbps, while 4x Blu-ray is 144Mbps and can store up to 50GB. However, Tapestry media will cost $180 per disc in volume – and the drives will cost $18,000!
Future iterations of Tapestry will supposedly push the specs to 800GB at 80MB/sec, and then 1.6TB at 120MB/sec. Perhaps, but they really need to bring those prices down if they want to sell any of these.
It doesn’t even make sense from a corporate backup perspective. As The Register points out, LTO-3 tapes, which are in common usage, hold 400GB and already has 80MB/sec transfer rates. And the newer LTO-4 tapes hold 800GB with a 120MB/sec transfer rate. Tapes may not have a 50 year shelf life, but most entities don’t need to store their data that long. Tape isn’t random access like disc, but that’s generally not a requirement for backups. And when it is using a hard disk system for near-line backup and tape for off site and long term backups makes more sense technologically and economically.
Also, tape is not only far less expensive, but it is re-usable. The Tapestry discs are WORM – Write Once, Read Many – in layman’s terms, just like a CD-R, DVD-R, or BD-RE. Anyone want a $180 coaster when a burn goes awry? And even without that risk, it isn’t suitable for backup systems which tend to reuse the same media over and over. So this is really just for long-term archiving.
As a concept it is interesting, but it sounds like it has a long way to go before it finds common use in commercial applications, and even longer before it appears in consumer goods.
Spotted in The Register.