Whatever happened to holographic storage?

Holographic storage may yet knock magnetic media off its perch

Storage capacity and transfer rates were nothing to get too excited about either. While a 300GB capacity is far more than a conventional optical disc, transfer rates of 20MB/s aren't exactly something to write home about.

InPhase's Tapestry drive was huge and the company never managed to achieve the promised data transfer rates

InPhase filed for bankruptcy in October 2011, although its assets were acquired by startup hVault, although the technology doesn't seem to have progressed much, sill using the same disc-in-a-cartridge system.

The technology is currently being pitched at companies that need to archive large amounts of data, with a promised 50-year life-span on the media. Although this compares well to other archive methods, such as tape which need to be periodically re-written to preserve data integrity, there are few data storage systems that have lasted 20 years, so longevity could be an issue.

A further issue with current Holographic storage systems is that the write speed is very slow, compared to the read speed, something that all optical systems suffer from. Real-time storage is therefore not really an option, much like you wouldn't use DVD-RW as a replacement for your hard drive. Instead, the tech is more of a Write Once Read Many (WORM) system, like DVD-R, but with much higher data capacity.

InPhase Media
The holographic media looks like a DVD inside a caddy and is reminiscent of the old DVD-RAM system

While hVault's system may be suitable for specialist archiving, the technology has a long way to go before it's going to be an attractive proposition for business, let alone consumers.

The drives are huge too, a far cry from the sugar cube concept and not even close to the size of a DVD or hard drive. It remains to be seen if hVault can refine they system into something that can be mass-produced, but for the foreseeable future, we'll have to rely on hard drives and flash memory for our storage needs.