64 DVDs on a disc: holographic storage to ship

InPhase Technologies announced Monday it will start bulk shipments of the industry’s first holographic disc drive this July in a format able to store 300GB of uncompressed data on a single platter. That capacity will expand to 1.6TB per disc within three years, the company said.

The initial Tapestry HDS-300R holographic disc drives shipped in December to beta users.

The Tapestry HDS-300R, which is the first rev of the product, will use a write-once format suited to regulatory agencies and is aimed strictly at the archival market for industries such as IT, health sciences, government agencies and professional video recording. InPhase plans to come to market with a re-writable format disc by the end of 2008.

“We’re not going to play in the backup market at all,” said Nelson Diaz, CEO of InPhase, in Longmont, Colo.

InPhase’s first generation product has a data transfer rate of 20MB/sec., 100,000-hour meantime between failure rate and a 50-year expected lifespan. By the end of 2008, InPhase plans a second-generation 800GB optical disc with data transfer rates of about 80MB/sec., with plans to expand its capacity to 1.6TB by 2010. Diaz said his company plans to make all of its products backward compatible.

Diaz also said InPhase announced today that it has signed a partnership with jukebox manufacturer DSM Handhabungssysteme GmbH & Co. KG in Germany, to adapt its holographic drives to a library system. Diaz said DMS plans to have a holographic library out in early 2008 with up to 675TB of capacity. InPhase is also working with a number of other tape library manufacturers to adapt their technology.

Each holographic disk actually holds up to 600GB. Diaz said the remaining 300GB not being used for data storage is taken up by error correction software. “We have lots and lots of data redundancy. Because we’re going after the archive market we’ve really erred on the side of caution in terms of data recovery,” said Liz Murphy, vice president of marketing at InPhase.

To a backup server the holographic disc looks like a drive letter, allowing users to drag and drop files, Murphy said.

“We’ve also tried to make as easy to integrate as possible from a software perspective. So it can emulate a DVD, CD-R, magnetic optical disc or tape drive. So software companies don’t have to do any major changes to write to it in native mode,” Murphy said.

The optical platters are encased in a 5.25-inch square casing that looks like a floppy disk, except that they’re 3 millimeters thick. The platter itself is 1.5 millimeters thick and data is written as a holographic image throughout the substrate of the disc.

Unlike CDs and DVDs where data is written on the surface, data is written throughout the substrate of the disc, meaning scratches, dust or dirt have little effect on data retrieval, Diaz said.

At US$18,000 for a holographic disk drive, InPhase has priced its product roughly mid-point between a $30,000 enterprise-class tape drive and midrange tape drives such as LTO tape drives, which go for around $4,000. The holographic platters will retail for $180 each.

InPhase was spun off the technology from Bell Laboratories in 2000. The company plans to sell the product through resellers. Hitachi Maxell will be manufacturing the tapestry line of holographic discs with photopolymer materials from Bayer MaterialScience.

Diaz said he already has orders for the product from big name corporations such as Turner Broadcasting System, the US Geological Survey, and Lockheed Martin.

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