Japanese vendor Optware, which this week is opening the U.S. branch of its holographic disk storage business, expects to ship three iterations of its high-density products by the end of 2006 -- and is aiming to break the 1TB capacity mark by 2008. Optware's Magnum HVD drives will have up to 200GB of capacity when they're released next year, according to Terry Loseke, president of Optware America.
Optware is now neighbors with its only other U.S. competitor, InPhase Technologies. InPhase said earlier this year that it will begin shipping its own 200GB drive by the end of next year.
Holographic disks can attain far higher density of data storage than standard magnetic disk drives, which store data only on the surface of a disk. Holographic disk technology allows data to be stored as a holograph throughout the polymer material that makes up a disk.
Optware's technology works by shining a green laser through the disk and then recording data in the polymer resin. A shiny surface on the bottom of the disk -- made of the same material a compact disc or DVD has on its surface -- then reflects that data back up to the laser to be read.
Loseke said Optware will be able to undercut InPhase's pricing because the technology is less complicated and therefore less expensive to produce. "A disk can cost the same as a DVD," he said. "The cost per megabyte is orders of magnitude less than magnetic disk storage media. It's about one-tenth of the cost of a hard drive."
Both Optware and InPhase are targeting their initial products at the data archival market because their holographic disk technology is removable and can be kept for decades without deterioration of data, which is stored within the disk and not on the surface. Loseke said Optware's Magnum HVD drive will fit in standard tape library drive slots, which will ease integration of the technology with backup software already in use.
Brian Garrett, technical director at research firm Enterprise Strategy Group said holographic storage could one day bump archival tape media from its throne. But it will have to meet or beat tape's price point before that happens.
"It's intriguing, but it really comes down to price/performance. Optical disk has been a challenger to tape for years, yet hasn't taken over," Garrett said. "But we're definitely due for a revolution."
Optware also plans to release a holographic disk product for streaming video that's targeted at the film and broadcast industries, and a consumer disk product that is about the size of a credit card with 30GB of capacity.
Garrett predicted that industry adoption of holographic storage could be slow. "It just takes a long time to change in the IT industry, and tape has just worked," he said.
The adoption of holographic storage will depend on a number of factors. For example, off-site data archival company Iron Mountain Inc. uses specific carrying cases for tape cartridges. Garrett said that if holographic disks don't fit in those cases, it could affect whether a company adopts the technology in the short term.