Even as home computers are being equipped with hard drives more massive than most users need, the scientific community is facing challenges of inadequate data storage systems. Experiments conducted in research facilities can produce unimaginable amounts of information, and computer scientists are working on ways to handle and manage it.
Virtually every modern computer system incorporates several different storage technologies to process data efficiently. A gentle introduction to registers, caches, and other forms of memory is given on this site (1
). A more advanced description of computer architecture and memory hierarchy is offered by Sun Microsystems (2
). The paper explains the importance of having small, fast caches in the microprocessor to improve performance and reduce the delay of accessing the large, slow hard drive. Colossal Storage (3
) is a company specializing in a new method of holographic data storage. While current technologies are hindered by area density, the proposed technology will expand into three dimensions and use the disk's volume to write data. Although the company's homepage is a bit poorly organized, some interesting insights into the technology and several white papers are available. InPhase Technologies is another company exploring holographic storage; however, its goal is to create a device that could be the successor to the DVD. In this article (4
), the potential capabilities and specifications of such a device are discussed. A working prototype has already been demonstrated, paving the way for future commercially viable drives based on the technology. A short paper by the Department of Energy Office of Science (5
) describes the impending rush of data generated by future scientific applications. It outlines the obstacles that must be overcome, including data mobility, extraction and analysis, and storage hardware. Possibly the most ambitious storage system ever created will be used to capture data from the world's most advanced particle physics facility. The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) will begin operating its Large Hadron Collider in 2007. The system that will collect and manage data from this instrument is described on this page (6
). Documentation about the architecture and operation of the CERN Advanced STORage Manager (CASTOR) is provided. A news article from January 2003 (7
) describes a new hard drive that can fit gigabytes of data in a tiny space. Said to measure about an inch wide, the Microdrive will be used in portable multimedia devices like digital video cameras. The second part of the article tells of the IBM Millipede project, which uses nanotechnology to make storage devices with less area than a dime. Satellites that monitor the Earth's environment have provided NASA with over a petabyte (a million gigabytes) of data. This article (8
) discusses this remarkable achievement and how the system allows constant access to all of the information.