GE Unveils 500-GB, Holographic Disc Storage Technology


The technology, developed by GE Global Research, the technology development arm of the General Electric Co., differs from current optical storage such as Blu-ray and DVD, which store data only on the surface of the disc.

Holographic storage stores data throughout the entire disk in multiple layers, increasing the density of the storage, GE said.

As a result, a single disc could possibly contain up to 500 GB of data, which GE said is the capacity of about 20 single-layer Blu-ray discs or 100 DVDs.

Because the hardware and the format of GE's holographic storage technology are similar to those of current optical storage technology, GE said that micro-holographic players will be backward read-compatible with existing CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

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GE is not the first to unveil holographic storage. InPhase Technologies, Longmont, Colo., currently produces holographic data storage drives and discs under its Tapestry brand that allow up to 300 GB of data to be stored on a single disc with a transfer rate of 20 MBps.

InPhase's road map calls for an 800-GB disk with transfer rate of 80 MBps to be available in the next couple of years, followed by a version with a capacity of 1.6 TB per disc and a 120-MBps transfer rate.

However, little has been heard about the technology from InPhase or from other companies such as Optware in Japan.

Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Chi, a Cleveland-based solution provider that signed up as a reseller for InPhase, said his company is still hoping InPhase comes to market, as there is customer demand for high-density, long-term archiving storage.

"It's an intriguing technology," Knieriemen said. "When you have a customer base that is already using optical storage, it should be easy to migrate to holographic storage. But we've heard nothing from InPhase for a while."

If GE can bring the new technology to market, it would find a ready market, especially in areas such as medical archiving, Knieriemen said.

"One of our customers is looking for ways of doing long-term archiving in a nondestructible format for medical records," he said. "They need to keep data for 70 years. What media offers that kind of long-term data retention? We could do it with disk. But every five years we would need to migrate to new technology."

InPhase did not respond to requests for further information.

GE said it plans to initially bring its holographic storage technology to the commercial archival industry, and will follow that with products for the consumer market.

"GE's breakthrough is a huge step toward bringing our next-generation holographic storage technology to the everyday consumer," said Brian Lawrence, who leads GE's Holographic Storage program, in a statement. "Because GE's micro-holographic discs could essentially be read and played using similar optics to those found in standard Blu-ray players, our technology will pave the way for cost-effective, robust and reliable holographic drives that could be in every home. The day when you can store your entire high-definition movie collection on one disc and support high-resolution formats like 3-D television is closer than you think."