Disk drives outperform tape drives in research use

MAY 21--Boulder Instruments (Longmont, CO; www.boulderinstruments.com) has teamed up with the MIT Haystack Observatory (Groton, MA) to develop the next generation of StreamStor digital data-streaming storage systems based on magnetic-disk technology.

MAY 21--Boulder Instruments (Longmont, CO; www.boulderinstruments.com) has teamed up with the MIT Haystack Observatory (Groton, MA) to develop the next generation of StreamStor digital data-streaming storage systems based on magnetic-disk technology. These Boulder systems are expected to meet the demanding requirements for high-speed digital data recording and playback for MIT's very-long-baseline-interferometry (VLBI) research by replacing magnetic-tape drives.

First demonstrated in the 1960s, VLBI is a technique that combines the work being done by the world's radio telescopes that simulates the advantages of having a giant radio dish as large as the distance, or baseline, separating the telescopes. These telescopes cooperate in joint observations of quasars, galaxies, and radio stars. Each telescope system operates independently, with its timing and frequencies controlled by precise atomic clocks. Detected signal data generated by the telescopes are currently recorded on magnetic tapes at rates to 1 Gbit/s. The tapes are then sent to a central correlating station for processing.

The next generation VLBI data system is replacing existing tape systems with magnetic disks that will provide the following advantages:

Minimum of 1-Gbit/s data rate

Expand to data rates of 8 Gbits/s over the next decade

Use unmodified off-the-shelf components

Incorporate upgradeable modules

Provide easy transportability

Run 24 hours minimum with unattended operation.

Industry analyses conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Cambridge, MA; www.mit.edu) found that tape and disk systems are going to converge in price and performance during this decade. Moreover, the radio telescope application is anticipated to benefit greatly from the improved random data access and durability performance of the magnetic-disk-based systems. As a result, the MIT Haystack Observatory has agreed to use VLBI data recording systems based on the new magnetic-disk technology using standard IDE interfaces.

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