140GB CD-ROM to Debut Next Year?

We might be enjoying an entirely new storage technology next year. Although few mainstream news sources have covered it, the heavy-hitting, in-the-know, techie sites such as slashdot and Ars Technica are reporting a new CD-ROM drive from a start-up company called C3D that might completely overhaul your enterprise storage strategy. C3D makes big CD-ROMs—and when we say big, we mean gargantuan: C3D predicts that its first-generation CD-ROMs will store 140GB. That’s right, CD-ROMs that will store 200 times more data than the current CD-ROM, and nearly 30 times more than the DVD. What’s more, C3D promises transfer rates of 1GBps. The writeable C3D prototypes, called WORMs, aren’t as mind-boggling--they only store 4GBs. C3D showed off prototypes on November 30 in San Jose, California. C3D Business Development Manager, Patrick Maloney, said, “We received some very strong responses \[after the demo\],” adding, “We had IBM, Dell, Sanyo, Apple, on and on, in that room.” According to the company, actual products with these high-capacity drives and disks will hit the marketplace in the fourth quarter of 2000. Small companies talk big, and we’re as skeptical as the next guy. But C3D’s pedigree is extraordinarily impressive. Chairman, Itzhak Yaakov, was chief of R&D for the Israeli Defense Forces; the company's general products manager, Ingolf Sander, comes from a series of executive positions at Kodak and Verbatim. This is no rookie startup. The C3D technology involves putting many layers of information onto one CD-ROM. In standard CD-ROM technology, a laser shines on the surface of a CD-ROM and reflects variations on the medium's surface. A traditional CD-ROM can support only two layers of information. With C3D, the drive laser activates fluorescent materials embedded in the disk; C3D has embedded between 9 and 20 layers in its prototype. The company claims it can access each different layer simultaneously, achieving a 1GBps transfer rate. C3D plans to make a credit-card-sized storage disk that can store 10GB in ROM form and 1GB in WORM form. To make the 140GB disk, C3D will need a disk with 10 embedded layers. The prototypes that it displayed on November 30 included a 9-layer CD-ROM disk and a 20-layer ROM card. “We intended to demo a 10-layer card. We demo'ed a 20-layer card. We doubled our capacity in 2 months,” Maloney said. If C3D gets these disks to the marketplace, we could witness a rapid changeover in storage technologies. Maloney said that C3D has made arrangements to produce the cards on its own but that the core of its business plan involves licensing the technology to the big OEMs. Maloney explained that the C3D labs had designed the drives to be as similar as possible to current CD-ROM drives so that manufacturers could shift plants to the new technology with minimal expense. Thus, Maloney claims, C3D drives will only be minimally more expensive or even the same price as current CD-ROM drives. Maloney ended by adding that the C3D labs had just confirmed the feasibility of 50-layer disks, and that its scientists have predicted disks with layers in the thousands. If he’s right, we could be storing terabytes of data on a single disk in the foreseeable future. In April, C3D’s stock sold for pennies on the Over-The-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB), but as of November 25, the current price had skyrocketed to $31.44 a share. Clearly, the smart money is taking a serious look at this new company. If C3D delivers, the stock will be worth even more.

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