by December 5, 2009 0 comments

With data increasing exponentially day by day  we need technologies and
devices to store the same. There are lots of speculations around as to what new
technologies will emerge in the near future and how will they impact data
storage as a whole. An average company’s data storage need grows triple every 2
years, an average person’s data storage requirements grow 500 megabytes per year
(and growing catastrophically), and  75% of all IT spending goes for data
storage. Such is the requirement and more for storage. Let’s look ahead to the
technologies that we might see in the near future to satiate the  escalating
need of data storage.

Five-dimensional data storage
Researchers have developed a 5-dimensional optical material capable of
storing data in three spatial dimensions in response to different wave lengths
and polarization of laser light. The material is made up of layers of gold
nanorods suspended in clear plastic spun flat on a glass substrate. Gold
nanorods respond to much narrower bands of laser light. Up to 6 different
patterns have been registered on the same area using 3 different wavelengths
and  two polarizations of light without interfering with each other. Storage
density of 1.1 terabytes per cubic centimeter can be achieved by writing data to
stacks of as many as 10 nanorod layers with recording speeds of about a gigabit
per second .The writing laser melts and reshapes the gold particles, which are
less than 100 nanometers long. The changes affect how the nanorods interact with
light from a laser-imaging system, allowing the data to be read.  The response
of the nanorods, which are scattered throughout the plastic randomly, also
depends on the angle of propagation of the incoming light. The patterns can’t be
erased and rewritten, but they should be stable over time. The first application
is likely to be in archives where large amounts of data from medical imaging
files, security encoding, and banking are stored. But this is not something
which we are going to see very soon.

Racetrack memory

Racetrack memory
Nanowires can be used to create an ultra-dense memory chip with the huge storage
capacity of a magnetic hard drive, the durability of electronic flash memory,
with speed superior to both, while avoiding their drawbacks. An array of
U-shaped magnetic nanowires arranged vertically can theoretically pack 100 times
as much data into the same area as a flash-chip transistor. The nanowires have
regions with different magnetic polarities, and the boundaries between the
regions represent 1s or 0s, depending on the polarities of the regions on either
side. When a spin-polarized current (one in which the electrons’
quantum-mechanica­l "spin" is oriented in a specific direction) passes through
the nanowire, the whole magnetic pattern is effectively pushed along, like cars
speeding down a racetrack. At the base of the U, the magnetic boundaries
encounter a pair of tiny devices that read and write the data. Data can be
written and read in less than a nanosecond. Racetrack memory using hundreds of
millions of nanowires would have the potential to store vast amounts of data.
There are no mechanical parts, so it could prove more reliable than a hard
drive. Racetrack memory can store information even when the power is off as no
atoms are moved in the process of reading and writing data, eliminating wear on
the wire. Moreover, chips with huge data capacity could be shrunk to
unimaginably small sizes. Moving 10 bits along the nanowire would make racetrack
memory competitive with flash storage. If movement of 100 bits could be
achieved, racetrack could replace hard drives. The challenges in this regard are
to manufacture narrower and more uniform wires from materials that would allow
the magnetic domains to move quickly along the wires with least amount of
electrical current possible. We might see some prototypes of this technology in
a couple of years.

Heating Up magnetic memory
Heat-assisted magnetic recording involves blasting the magnetic regions of a
disk with heat to make it possible to use as a more stable recording media. It
should make it possible to record data at densities 50 times greater than will
be possible when today’s technologies reach their limits. Blasting more
magnetically stable grains with a short pulse of heat makes it much easier to
flip them. When the media cools down again, the data is "frozen”. The heat is
provided by a rapid laser blast that must be focused down to a spot, the size of
an individual grain, less than 100 nanometers in diameter. This requires a new
generation of optics that work in what’s known as the near field. A
magnetic-writing head outfitted with near-field optics to write data to a hard
disk coated with stable recording media is being worked on to achieve the
desired result. Recording data at densities of 250 gigabits per square inch have
been registered, which could be increased for major impact. Reduction in the
size of the light to about 20 nanometers and integration of an electronic
controlled laser into a hard drive would go far towards making this tech a


Grid-Oriented Storage
In support of future generation of data storage in the grid era, a new
concept of Grid-Oriented Storage (GOS) comes up . A GOS device incorporates all
the capabilities of the earlier NAS/SAN devices, but is a new device suitable
not only for Internet communication but also for grid communication. A GOS
device is a cheap file server; basically a disk drive or disk array with another
board that connects it directly to the grid. The key technologies to be
developed in the project will establish repositories for data that can be shared
among multiple processors and multiple end users on the grid. GOS products fit
the thin-server categorization, with re-developed and simplified operating
system, and can accelerate tenfold the access to data on the Internet/Grid.

‘Millipede’-Nanoscale mechanical data storage
Touted as the next advancement in terms of data storage for a while now, the
‘Millipede’ project still  waits to see the light of the day.  Millipede is a
non-volatile computer memory stored on nanoscopic pits burned into the surface
of a thin polymer layer, read and written by a MEMS-based probe. It promises a
data density of more than 1 terabit per square inch which is about 4 times the
density of magnetic storage available today. The Millipede system provides high
data density, low seek times, low power consumption and, probably, high
reliability. This technology would indeed be more expensive per MB than the
current prevailing technologies, but this disadvantage would be masked by the
sheer massive storage quantity provided which is more than any thing present or
proposed. Usage scenarios predominantly involve high capacity hard drives but
due to the small form factor devices like watches, mobile phones and personal
media systems could also be using the Millipede very soon.

It is quite possible that by the time this information reaches you, research
on many new technologies would have started. Data storage is ever increasing and
improving and with it, is improving the way the world looks at technological
advancements to provide solutions. One thing is for sure. One cannot consider
himself a third party person in this tussle. We as users are very much a part of
this ongoing battle of the storage problem and the storage  technology battling
it out in a battle of oneupmanship.

Shikhar Mohan Gupta

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