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Holographic storage drives and other products based on holographic storage technology may come to market as early as this year.

Tokyo-based Optware Corp. announced plans this week to create products based on its HVD (Holographic Versatile Disc) technology, first for the health care, oil and gas, and pharmaceutical markets, and eventually for the home market.

Optware’s HVD-based products will store between 100GB and 1TB of data and be able to transmit data as fast as 1G bit per second.

Optware’s announcement came on the heels of a similar announcement earlier this month from InPhase Technologies Inc. of Longmont, Colo.

InPhase recently began shipping its Tapestry HDS5000 media, a recordable holographic drive based on WORM (Write Once Read Many) technology.

A newer version, the Tapestry HDS-200R, is expected to hit the market this year. The new version will be a 200GB recordable drive with a 20 MB-per-second transfer rate.

According to the company, Tapestry’s target markets include professional video/rich media, regulatory compliance, and data archive applications that value high capacity, fast transfer rate and long media archival life. Specific application areas include security, geospatial imagery, broadcast, medical, and digital video in business and entertainment.

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Both companies are relying on holographic information storage technology to achieve their goals. According to ECMA, an industry association group spearheading the development of a standard for holographic information storage, one HVD can store more than 200G of data, or the equivalent of more than 40 of today’s DVDs, and eventually will be able to store more than 1.3TB.

And unlike optical discs, which record one data bit at a time, HVDs allow over 10KB of data to be written and read in parallel with a single flash of light—and the recording and reading processes do not require spinning media, according to the organization.

In addition to increased storage capacity, potential benefits include reducing costs of storage by radically increased density and easier management.

HVDs also could solve the problem created by the vast amounts of real estate that removable archiving media consume, said Brian Babineau, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group of Milford, Mass. “Right now, all business continuity plans include some sort of off-site storage, and the density and mobility of HVD media can make it more cost-effective to send data offsite,” he said.

Eventually, Babineau said, the market might eventually see the use of HVDs to carry personal information such as credit cards, ATM cards and health care records, all on one piece of media.

But until these products actually hit the market, it’s all speculation, he said. “HVD offers tremendous amounts of capacity, but they need to prove that the data can be accessed quickly without any quality degradation. Until then, it’s a science project,” he said.

But if vendors can succeed in proving the technology’s benefits and get it to market quickly, it has a real chance against high-capacity disk drives and tape—the true targets of HVDs. To compete with the coming HVD revolution, drive and tape vendors will have to continue innovating beyond the soon-to-be-released 0.5TB disk drives and 1TB tape drives, he noted.

In the meantime, HVD vendors’ best chance for overtaking high-capacity disk drives and tape is to start educating the potential customer base even as they work to get their products to market, Babineau said.

“Given the success of disk in replacing tape in some backup environments, as well as disk being used for storage archival, these companies can’t wait until HVD is perfected,” he said. “They need to take advantage of the disruption disk is creating as users begin to remove optical and tape media from their environments.”

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Optware and InPhase, as well as contenders Aprilis Inc. of Maynard, Mass. and Colossal Storage Corp. of San Jose, Calif., are doing their best to get HVD-based products to market and prove skeptics wrong. Both InPhase and Optware plan to have products available this year and to introduce more over the next several years.

And in the case of InPhase, the company already has a variety of vendors interested in its technology. First out of the gate is Sony Corp., which already has demonstrated a holographic ROM technology using InPhase’s Tapestry media that enables backward read compatibility with DVD and CD formats.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include comments from Enterprise Strategy Group’s Brian Babineau.

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