Feature

Optical storage eyes the enterprise

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Optical storage is riding the wave of regulatory compliance to make a play for a greater enterprise presence. The latest technology--ultra-density optical or UDO--boosts optical disk capacities and read/write performance sufficiently to make it a viable alternative for some enterprise applications.

Plasmon is leading the UDO field with libraries that contain up to 638 slots that accommodate 30GB UDO cartridges, for a total capacity of more than 19TB. Its newest entry is the UDO Archive Appliance, which has a NAS interface, a RAID disk cache of up to 2TB and has been certified with a number of archive application vendors. "We've enabled multiple applications to be able to set up unique archive policies," says Mike Koclanes, Plasmon's chief strategy officer and senior VP of sales and marketing.

Koclanes says that in addition to archiving, "we have people using it for nearline [storage]," citing one Canadian bank that stores customer-accessible information on a UDO box. But he points out that Plasmon doesn't position UDO products as a suitable alternative to tape. "Tape is still an excellent backup and recovery mechanism," he says.

Mike Frakes, computer specialist at the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aviation Registry in Oklahoma City, uses their 638-slot UDO library in tandem with an EMC Centera CAS array. As a repository for aircraft and pilot information dating back to 1925, Frakes' organization scans and stores approximately 20,000

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pages a day. "As new images come in," says Frakes, "they automatically write to a platter in the UDO box and also come over and land on the Centera."

The UDO library adds assurances that the data is safe. "We wanted to have those images stored in at least three places on two kinds of media, just for safety's sake," says Frakes.

Despite some innovative implementations, cartridge durability and a UDO roadmap that projects capacity doubling to 60GB in the first half of this year--and doubling again in another 24 to 36 months--many remain skeptical about optical storage. "I see some real problems with using optical media for archiving," says Stephen Foskett at GlassHouse Technologies, Framingham, MA. He notes that data deletion, a key aspect of regulatory compliance, is more easily accomplished on a content-addressed storage device than with optical storage.

But storage managers are becoming more energy conscious, and optical storage may become a viable low-power alternative to magnetic media. Plasmon cites a study that said one of its units consumed approximately $420 worth of power annually vs. a $6,000 tab to run a Centera. "I think the cost savings are real significant," says Frakes.

--Rich Castagna

This was first published in February 2007

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