IBM is developing holographic storage technology, which it claims will be able to store a copy of every Hollywood film for each of the world's six billion people.
Big Blue is trying to find an alternative to magnetic disk technology, which it predicts will only be able to store a maximum of 100Gb of data. While existing products store 10Gb, demand for capacity doubles every 18 months, so magnetic disk offerings are likely to have reached their peak within the next five years.
The holographic technology under development would be able to store so-called yottabytes of data, and deal with all of the Internet and multimedia data starting to appear. According to IBM, Exabytes, the successor to petabytes, are 10Mb of data to the square of 15, while yottabytes are 10Mb to the square of 24. Other definitions say an exabyte as, in decimal terms, a billion gigabytes.
"If we make the assumption that everyone needs 40 petabytes of data in a lifetime of 100 years, then the world could use 200 yottabytes of data, including video, which takes up the most storage space," said Bill Cody, senior manager of exploratory data management research at IBM's Almaden Research Center in California.
He explained that the world had needed to store 81,000 terabytes of data in 1995 at a cost of 33 cents per Mb, this had risen to 800,000 by 1999 at a cost of $0.044 per Mb.
By 2001, however, Cody expects the figure to increase to six million terabytes, although it would only cost $0.006 per Mb.
"Some 85 per cent of the world's data is currently unstructured and is not accessible using storage technology," he said. "But at $0.06 per Mb, storage starts to compete with paper and film. As storage capacity goes up, price is coming down and storage technology is getting more ubiquitous."
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