The bootless PC and terabytes on a dime

Systems using nanotechnology could do away with disk drives as well as the boot-up process

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HAMR uses a laser and a magnetic head together to read and write data on new and more stable disk medium such as iron-platinum. The laser heats the disk medium while the magnetic head writes to it, allowing the disk to store more data. After the media cools, the disk and data becomes very stable. Kryder says, "There are a large number of media that can be written by HAMR and iron-platinum materials can theoretically support 50 terabits per square inch."

Difficulties in building production lines that deliver the right chemical balance that can produce carbon nanotubes are another concern. IBM's Thomas Theis finds these particularly vexing. "You have to learn how to purify the chemical mixes because if you do not get the right balance, you end up with a mix of metal and semiconductor carbon nanotubes," says Theis.

However, Colossal Storage's Thomas firmly believes that some of these technologies could be in production as soon as two or three years from now if the right market drivers were in place. But at the current pace, the soonest any of his projects will even reach the laboratory stage is in 2010, with production starting no sooner than 2012.

So with the potential for devices as small as flash drives to hold as much data in 10 years as the world's largest data centers held only 10 years ago, users like Howard Haile, the director of information systems for Riley County, Kan., see tremendous upside but equally great risks. Haile says, "This would be extremely cost-effective for replicating data off-site for disaster recovery. On the other hand, right now, I don't have to worry about anyone walking out of my offices with my corporate database on a flash drive."

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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