It's been two decades coming but finally the first prototype of commercial holographic data storage has arrived.

InPhase Technologies and Maxell will demonstrate the device, named Tapestry, at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas later today.

The prototype is a 300GB drive that can store over 35 hours of broadcast-quality high-definition video on a single removable 12cm disk. It uses a SCSI interface and a Windows device driver from Pegasus to connect to the OS' file system. It is also the child of the Tapestry family, with the company planning a range of holographic drives with capacities up to 1.6TB.

"Holographic storage is coming to market, and it will provide video professionals with an enterprise storage solution that will change the way they acquire, edit, and archive high-resolution video assets," said Nelson Diaz, CEO of InPhase.

The first public demonstration of the drive used video material to show off its main feature (and something that goes well beyond the capabilities of current optical and magnetic formats) - its data transfer rate.

Holographic storage disks are particularly well suited to applications like broadcasting and video editing because of the fact that data is read and recorded in parallel, a million bits at a time. The prototype has a data transfer rate of 27Mbit/s.

High capacity is achieved by recording data throughout the volume of the recording material, and not just on the surface. A data page of approximately one million bits is therefore recorded in just one exposure of the laser. Each data page is located at a unique address within the material and several hundred pages of data, each with their own unique address, are recorded in the same location of the medium. A collection of data pages is referred to as a book.

This polytopic recording technique enables more holograms to be stored in the same volume of material by overlapping not only pages, but also books of data. This dramatically increases the storage density to around 200 gigabits per square inch, significantly higher than any other optical format.

The main applications for holographic disk drives are initially expected to be in archive and media management, and at the same time as the demo, InPhase also announced support from the Masstech Group's MassStore archive and media management system, both embedded or as a standalone device.

"The InPhase Tapestry system is a major achievement," said Sudy Shen, CEO of Masstech. "We look forward to InPhase developing this innovative storage solution for the professional video industry that takes advantage of this revolutionary holographic technology."

MassStore is a Web-based app that provides desktop accessibility to a full range of management and tracking tools through an open XML interface.

InPhase itself was spun-off from Lucent in 2000 and boasts some of the storage industry’s leading scientists and engineers. Together with Maxell (also a major shareholder in InPhase) they have turned the media and recording technology developed by InPhase into a commercial product that should be delivered to OEM customers early next year, although it has yet to announce prices.

And then, despite over 20 years of scientists and engineers discarded efforts, the concept of holographic memory will become a commercial reality.