Is Emerging 3-D Holographic Storage Poised to be the Next Great Archival Medium?

Writing in the April/May 2008 issue of State Tech: Technology Insights for Leaders in State and Local Government, Michele Hope concludes by writing: “Only time and a few real-world installations will tell.” Here are some excerpts from Michele’s article:


“The first commercial holographic storage products are slated for release in mid-2008. With first-generation products boasting write-once, read many (WORM) characteristics, a lifespan of 50-pls years, initial disk capacities of 300 gigabytes per disk and a 20 magabyte-per-second data rate, proponents are aiming this technology at the long term archival needs of government entities, highly regulated health-care and medical organizations, and professional media and film industries

“As opposed to traditional 2-D disks that write data only on the surface of the media, holographic storage supports writing data volumetrically, or three-dimensionally, throughout the whole depth of a disk.”

“The technology turns data bits typically composed of zeros and ones into a unique dark/light ‘checkerboasrd’ inference pattern. A spatial light modulator and the intersection of two laser beams (a signal beam containing the data and a reference beam) help create the interference pattern, which records as a hologram onto a plastic photo-polymer disk..”


“At an initial price of 60 cents per gigabyte, you can expect to see most storage vendors include halographic storage in everything from virtual libraries to storage arrays. The potential ‘green’ factor of the technology is also intriguing: Early estimates suggest energy savings of 90 percent over traditional spinning disks.”

” The anticipated terabyte-plus capacity has one state archivist thinking the technology might offer a good alternative to the practice of copying records onto microfilm for distribution to other locations” Due to the high data volume of these disks, this archivist believes this medium could be a “very viable and economical way to distribute some of this information to venues that may not have good internet access.” As for law related applications I see a posibility of using this medium to store some high volume legal documents, including transcripts of large trials, which may not lend themselves to full web access due to confidentiality issues.

According to Dr. Victor McCrary who works with NIST’s Digital Media Group, “For now, organizations with heavy data storage needs should watch these developments and consider adopting early holographic technology as a prototype test-bed to see how it works.” He thinks 3-D halographic storage “…has very good potential. Digital preservation is an issue that will only get larger in importance and concern, particularly for any sort of agency–government or commercial–concerned about retention of important records.”

“Dennis Gabor, a Hungarian-born British physicist, came up with the theory of holography in 1948 while conducting research to improve the electron microscope. By combining two Greed words–holos meaning ‘whole’ and gramma meaning ‘message’ –he created the term ‘hologram’ to describe his theory.”

Contact Information