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Holographic Mass Storage in Life Sciences

Holograph Several years ago, I read that the use of holographs was going to revolutionize data storage. Then came silence.

In November 2005, however, Turner Entertainment revealed that they had been working on a demonstration project to show how holographic media could be used to store and retrieve all types of content from their vast media library.

The article explained the advantage of holographic storage this way: "Holographic disk storage can attain far higher density than standard magnetic disk drives, which store data only on the surface of a disk, because the holographic technology allows data to be stored throughout the polymer material that makes up a disk."

Now, fast forward to October 2006, when an article in Computer Reseller News, reported that commercial versions of holographic drives and media will become available in 2007.

One of the first products to hit the street will be from InPhase Technologies of Longmont, Colorado, the Tapestry HDS 300R. This drive will use holographic media from Hitachi-Maxell. As you can probably decipher, the HDS 300R stands for Holographic Data Storage 300 gigabyte, read only.

The key advantages of this new medium are fast transfer rates and storage capacity. Both of these are expected to improve over time. Specifically, InPhase has announced the following generations:

  • 2007: 300 gb, 20 mbytes/sec
  • 2008: 800 gb, 80 mbytes/sec
  • 2010: 1.6 tb, 120 mbytes/sec

As with most other new technologies, the drives and medium will be more expensive than the technologies being replaced. Ultimately, holographic storage will be much cheaper than others.

As to applications, while the Life Sciences industry has a need for high-density storage of multi-media files and scientific images, there is a larger market for regulatory and archival storage of R&D, regulatory and manufacturing data and content and of collaboration content such as email and other unstructured content (e.g. Sharepoint, Lotus Notes, blogs, wikis, etc.)

From the archiving perspective, InPhase and Hitachi claim that the holographic medium has a 50-year shelf life. However, as we all know, whatever the number it is pretty much meaningless in an environment of unrelenting change. Only a well-defined refresh strategy will guarantee that the data stored on any medium will be retrievable and usable in the future.

From the planning horizon perspective, start to consider and evaluate now how holographic storage will fit into your overall infrastructure plans. If you decide to take the plunge, start pilot projects in early 2008 and move into production in 2009. By that time there should be several product options to leverage.

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P.S. - Please note that there are still skeptics out there who don't believe that holographic storage will be a viable storage option for quite some time. See this article for example. Using the 80/20 rule, I would bet that 80% of Life Sciences companies will stay away from holographic storage until the other 20% (or less) show whether it's viable or not.

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