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Turner Entertainment turns to holographic storage

The network plans to roll out the cutting-edge storage medium for fast restore

November 17, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Turner Entertainment Networks has its lenses focused on holographic storage for the future of storing and retrieving its movies, cartoons and commercial spots. The network giant has completed a test of the cutting-edge storage technology, which it said will soon move the company away from tape- and disk-based storage.
"The holographic disk promises to retail for $100, and by 2010, it will have capacity of 1.6TB each. That's pretty inexpensive," said Ron Tarasoff, vice president of broadcast technology and engineering at Turner Entertainment. "Even this first version can store 300GB per disk, and it has 160MB/sec. data throughput rates. That's burning. Then combine it with random access, and it's the best of all worlds."
Holographic disk storage can attain far higher density than standard magnetic disk drives, which store data only on the surface of a disk, because the holographic technology allows data to be stored throughout the polymer material that makes up a disk. Analysts said holographic storage is well suited for broadcasting and video editing because the data is read and stored in parallel at a million bits at a time, and prototypes of the holographic disk arrays have a data transfer rate of 27MB/sec.
That's music to the ears of Tarasoff.
Turner Entertainment, a subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting System Inc. in Atlanta, has more than 200,000 movies, 25,000 commercials and 49,000 promotional spots that it stores on digital tape libraries from Storage Technology Corp. as well as a caching system of disk arrays. But as its content continues to grow, the company's disk costs and tape retrieval lag time is becoming a challenge, Tarasoff said. And high-definition movies, which are gaining popularity, use six times the storage space of traditional movies.
Tarasoff said StorageTek, now owned by Sun Microsystems Inc., is working with holographic storage companies to retrofit its libraries for optical disk cartridges compatible with current systems.
In addition to its storage issues, Turner Entertainment needs to feed its growing internal bandwidth, Tarasoff said. The company now has 96 1Gbit/sec. Ethernet connections, but it plans to upgrade those to 10Gbit/sec. streams in the near future to feed 32 different networks, Tarasoff said.
Last month, Turner Entertainment tested a prototype holographic disk array called Tapestry, which is made by InPhase Technologies Inc. in Longmont, Colo. InPhase plans to ship production models of its array next year, as does Japanese vendor Optware Corp., which in October opened a U.S. branch of its holographic disk storage business. It hopes to break the 1TB capacity mark for disks by 2008.
Optware's technology works by shining a green laserthrough the disk and then recording data in the polymer resin. A shiny surface on the bottom of the disk -- made of the same material used on the surface of today's CDs and DVDs -- then reflects that data back to the laser so it can be read.
Tarasoff said InPhase's hardware performed flawlessly, feeding a promotional spot to its networks about as quickly as its tape library system does. "Their production version promises to be much faster than tape, but we've not seen that yet," Tarasoff said.
He said the test, well ahead of production rollouts of the product, was performed partly as an "internal PR" exercise "to prove to our own executives that we have a solution down the line, and we want to prepare for that rather than just thinking we're eight to 10 years away from something."

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