The MO the merrier

The MO the merrier<@VM>MO devices do a number on storage and retrieval problems

Magneto-optical jukeboxes are music to the ears of managers who need capacity, scalability and reliability

BY J.B. MILES'|'SPECIAL TO GCN

For large-scale data archiving and retrieval, optical jukeboxes, also known as optical disk libraries, bring a fast return on investment.

Technically, optical jukeboxes are systems with drives that handle multifunctional magneto-optical disks as well as CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW and DVD-RAM or DVD-ROM media.

There are trade-offs among them in price and performance, but MO jukeboxes excel in the highest levels of reliability, storage capacity and overall performance.

The MO jukeboxes listed in this guide are equipped with robotic arms and up to 12 drives. All use 5.25-inch disk cartridges capable of holding up to 9.1G of data.

Terabytes of data

The cartridges are stored in shelves or magazines within the unit for automatic retrieval. With the aid of software, fast SCSI-2 interfaces and networking capability, an MO jukebox with several hundred disks can handle terabytes of information.

The drives used in MO jukeboxes work with both rewritable and write-once-read-many (WORM) media, an advantage over competing optical storage technologies.

Data can be rewritten to a rewritable MO disk more than 100 million times and, because it uses laser technology, it's fairly difficult to inadvertently wipe data from the disk.


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The Lowdown


' What is it? A magneto-optical jukebox is a robotic device with one or more disk drives and several shelves or magazines for storing up to hundreds of rewritable or WORM optical disks.


' How does it work? It uses dedicated software to automate loading and unloading optical media to the drives, so that stored data can be transferred at high speeds among computers and network servers. Third-party vendors also make jukebox management software.


' What about platform and OS support? Most MO jukeboxes support virtually all platforms and operating systems. But check to see if the one you're interested in supports the systems you use.


' What is online drive replacement? Several manufacturers offer online drive replacement options, with which you can replace a failed drive on the fly without interrupting the jukebox or server.


' Must-know info? MO jukeboxes offer unlimited capacity, fast data transfer times and high levels of data security when WORM disks are used. Document imaging, electronic publishing, computer graphics, computer-aided design, secure archiving, digital video, medical imaging and multimedia are a few of the applications they support.
As the name suggests, WORM technology allows data to be written only once but read limitless times. This security feature satisfies most government and regulatory requirements for the safety of data.

The benefits of MO jukeboxes can be put into eight categories.

Price and performance. Once you've invested in an MO jukebox, the cost of adding more gigabytes of storage is limited to the price of the MO media. And as you increase capacity, the cost of storage can go down to a few pennies per megabyte of data.

Reliability. The robotics in MO jukeboxes are highly dependable, with mean swaps between failure (MSBF) rates of 2 million or more in many cases.

If you want faster swap times with some fail-safe protection against a drive failure, select a system with multiple drives. If one drive goes down, others instantly take up the load without missing or losing data.

Stability. MO disks are inherently more stable than hard disks, magnetic tape and even CD-ROM or DVD media. MO disks are made of polycarbonate plastic, the same material used in manufacturing bulletproof glass. Because the data is sandwiched between two sheets of polycarbonate, it isn't subject to dust, sunlight or other forms of contamination.

The disks also avoid head crashes because the laser array used to record and read data never comes in contact with the media itself. Because a laser beam is used to change the polarity on the media to create data, existing data can't easily be erased or altered magnetically.

Under normal conditions, data stored on an MO disk has a likely shelf life of 30 to 50 years; new disk technologies will soon bring the minimum data shelf life to 100 years or more.

Large capacities. MO jukeboxes can store gobs of data; their 5.25-inch, 9.1G disks that can store approximately 12.3 million pages of information are fast becoming the new standard. Plasmon PLC's G638, which uses 9.1-G cartridges exclusively, has up to 638 slots. This tallies up to a storage capacity of a whopping 5.8T.

MO experts from Hewlett-Packard Co. predict that next-generation MO disks will have up to 40G of storage capacity, to be followed eventually by 120G disks.


Plasmon PLC's G638 has 638 disk slots and 5.8T of capacity with data transfer rates between 3.1 and 6.1 megabytes/sec. Its price starts at $108,512.
High speeds. MO drives are random-access, making them faster than tape drives, which must seek out specific data serially. HP says its Surestore Series, with 9.1G drives, has true fast-synchronous burst data transfer rates of up to 10 Mbps and sustained transfer rates of up to 6.1 Mbps. Statistics published by other manufacturers, including Plasmon, show similar performance capabilities.

Flexibility. You can write to an MO disc over 100 million times, using it just as if it were a hard drive, or use WORM disks to write once.

By contrast, you can't write to a CD-ROM disk at all. You can write to CD-R and CD-RW disks, but you need special software and premastering procedures for batch writing. And even though DVD technology is on the rise, it comes in a variety of formats, lacks comprehensive standards and doesn't offer the media security that MO does.

Virtually all MO jukeboxes can read MO disks from any manufacturer, provided they are standards-compliant. A system loaded with 5.2G disks can also read 2.6G disks as well as the earliest MO disks formatted for 650M of data.

Scalability. Most MO jukeboxes are in product families and usually defined by their overall capacities, which makes it easy to scale your capacity. For example, HP's Surestore 220mx, with 220G of storage, works easily with the company's high-end products, up to the 2200mx, with 2.2T of storage.

The company also has conversion kits for upgrading any of its 2.6G or 5.2G jukeboxes to 9.1G systems.

Standards. MO technology adheres to standards established by the International Standards Organization, which guarantees interoperability among products. For buyers, this amounts to a safeguard against premature obsolescence and eliminates dependence on a single supplier.

J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers. E-mail him at jbmiles@gte.net.































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Company Product Capacity in gigabytes Disk slots Drives Average disk exchange time in seconds Data transfer in megabytes per second Mean swaps between failure Price
Disc Inc.

Milpitas, Calif.

408-934-7000

www.disc-storage.com
Orion D150U 1,274 to 1,547 140 to 170 2 to 8 3.7 2.5 to 5 2 million $50,000
Orion D245 1,866 to 2,321 207 to 257 2 to 12 3.7 2.5 to 5 2 million $58,000
Orion D280U 2,184 to 2,639 260 to 290 2 to 12 3.7 2.5 to 5 2 million $69,000
Orion D525 4,141 to 4,778 457 to 527 2 to 16 3.7 2.5 to 5 2 million $93,000
Orion D525U 4,141 to 4,778 457 to 527 2 to 16 3.7 2.5 to 5 2 million $106,000
Orion D1050 8,299 to 9,573 914 to 1,054 4 to 32 3.7 2.5 to 5 2 million $163,000
Hewlett-Packard Co.

Palo Alto, Calif.

650-857-1501

www.hp.com
Surestore 2200mx 2,166 238 4, 6 or 10 6.5 3.1 to 6.1 2 million $69,969
Surestore 1200mx 1,165 128 4 or 6 6.5 3.1 to 6.1 2 million $34,649
Surestore 700mx 692 76 2 6.5 3.1 to 6.1 2 million $15,499
Surestore 600MX 582 64 4 6.5 3.1 to 6.1 2 million $20,249
Surestore 300MX 292 32 2 6.5 3.1 to 6.1 2 million $12,977
Surestore 220MX 218 24 1 or 2 12 3.1 to 6.1 1 million $5,393
IBM Corp.

Armonk, N.Y.

800-426-2255

www.ibm.com/storage
Enhanced 3995 C60 104 20 1 or 2 2.8 3 to 5.5 1 million $8,995
Enhanced 3995 C62 270 52 2 2.6 3 to 5.5 2 million $22,500
Enhanced 3995 C64 540 104 2 or 4 2.8 3 to 5.5 2 million $31,300
Enhanced 3995 C66 811 156 4 or 6 2.8 3 to 5.5 2 million $49,000
Enhanced 3995 C68 1,341 258 4 or 6 3.1 3 to 5.5 2 million $68,500
Maxoptix Corp.

Fremont, Calif.

800-848-3092

www.maxoptix.com
MX620 82 to 104 20 1 or 2 6 2 1 million $6,995 up
MX640 164 to 208 40 1 or 2 6 2 1 million $1,0650 up
MX6126 516 to 655 126 2 to 6 10 2.5 2 million $34,682 up
MX 6202 828 to 1,050 202 2 to 6 10 2.5 2 million $40, 580 up
MX 6278 1,140 to 1,450 278 2 to 6 10 2.5 2 million $51,850
Micro Design

International Inc.

Lake Mary, Fla.

800-228-0891

www.mdi.com
SEL-010104 104 20 1 6 3.5 to 4 .8 million $10,299
SEL-020104 104 20 2 6 3.5 to 4 .8 million $13,799
SEL-020166 166 32 2 6 3.5 to 4 .8 million $17,999
SEL-020270 270 52 2 9 3.5 to 4 1.5 million $25,899
SEL-040540 540 104 4 9 3.5 to 4 1.5 million $41,199
SEL-040811 811 156 4 10 3.5 to 4 1.5 million $51,199
SEL-061341 1,341 258 6 10 3.5 to 4 1.5 million $89,999
SEL-062600 2,600 500 6 13 3.5 to 4 1.5 million $137,999
Plasmon PLC

Eden Prairie, Minn.

952-946-4100

www.plasmon.com
G164 1,500 164 4 or 6 6.1 3.1 to 6.1 3.8 million $50,730 up
G238 2,200 238 4, 6 or 10 6.2 3.1 to 6.1 3.8 million $64,370 up
G638 5,800 638 6, 10 or 12 6.4 3.1 to 6.1 3.8 million $108,512 up
M20 104 to 184 20 1 or 2 2.7 3.1 to 6.1 1.5 million $7,395
M32 166 to 291 32 1 or 2 3 3.1 to 6.1 1.5 million $10,795 up
M52 270 to 473 52 2 6.1 3.1 to 6.1 2.8 million $20,350
M104 540 to 946 104 2 or 4 6.3 3.1 to 6.1 2.8 million $24,400 up
M156 811 to 1,400 156 2, 4 or 6 6.7 3.1 to 6.1 2.8 million $32,400 up
M258 1,300 to 2,300 258 2, 4 or 6 7.2 3.1 to 6.1 2.8 million $55,392 up
M500 2,600 to 4,600 500 2, 4 or 6 8.1 3.1 to 6.1 2.8 million $94,336 up
Sony Electronics Inc.

San Jose, Calif.

408-432-1600

www.ita.sel.sony.com
OSL-2001 46 to 52 20 1 or 2 5 4 to 5 1 million $5,596

to

$7,996
Western Scientific Inc.

San Diego, Calif.

800-443-6699

www.wsm.com
WJBP40FN-C5 40 16 2 12 5 n/a $13,618
WJBP80FN-C5 83 32 2 10 5

5
n/a $20,908
WJBP160FN-C5 166 64 4 10 5 n/a $34,938
WJBP330FN-C5 333 128 4 10 5 n/a $47,292
WJBP600FN-C5 619 238 6 10 5 n/a $80,712

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