The inevitable spread of voice recognition technology in the coming years has the potential to overtax the capacity limitations of current storage technologies.

Although it’s still too early to hit the panic button, storage administrators and CTOs alike should be aware of what’s coming down the pike to help them store all those audio sound bytes of customers replying “yes” and “no” to voice-based applications. Finding the storage space for such data may require newer, denser storage technologies such as holographic storage, optical tape, or even perpendicular storage.

IBM Corp. research, which is intensifying its efforts in voice recognition technology, expects voice data to double the strain on server CPUs compared with the projections for text data. Fortunately, the applied science of storage technology, as does that of voice technology, also continues to accelerate at a blistering pace. Current magnetic recording densities for most media is about 15Gb per square inch of surface space, but industry scientists are pushing the laws of physics to potentially deliver capacities of 1TB or more per square inch of recording space.

Just last week, InPhase Technologies Inc. demonstrated a holographic storage system at the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas. InPhase’s Tapestry video recording system could hit the market by late 2003 with storage capacities in excess of 100GB per disk. Unlike conventional storage disks, which record data in tracks across their surface, holographic storage recorders write across the entire body of the disk, creating richer paths to draw data from and increasing capacity and throughput.

Then there’s O-Mass optical tape storage from Tandberg Data, which promises to deliver as much as 600GB of storage on a standard-size tape cartridge. With O-Mass, 32 data tracks are etched from a single write head, creating 96 data tracks from a three-head system that self-corrects read-write errors by identifying cross-talk from track to track in much the same way that video systems offer image stabilizers. With a development road map reaching 10TB of data on a single O-Mass tape in only a few years, O-Mass will enter the market later this year.

Are you ready for perpendicular storage? Considered by many to be the next major shift in data storage, this nifty idea should be headed to market within five years. Unlike today’s storage media in which data bits lie parallel to the disk or tape surface, perpendicular storage technology sets the bits upright, creating more room for storage.

Pushing capacities even further is heat-assisted magnetic recording, which could enable data recording densities of as much as 1,000Gb per square inch of media space. This inventive process lowers the magnetic field of a disk or tape by heating the recorded area with a laser. Once heated, the media can pack data more densely than disks or tapes recorded at room temperature.

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