Sony 'WORMs' its way to Better Storage

New tape drives are fortified with Write Once, Read Many technology to help customers cope with government record keeping regulations.

Sony Electronics has sent Write Once, Read Many (WORM) technology crawling through its tape drives to answer customer calls for better record keeping capabilities in storage devices.

WORM is a technology that allows users to write data onto a disk just once. Data written in WORM-compatible disks is permanent and can be read any number of times.

Unlike CD-ROMs, there is no single standard for WORM disks, which means that they can only be read by the same type of drive that wrote them. This has slowed their adoption, although they have found a niche market as an archival media.

New government regulations aimed at preventing accounting fraud have extended the amount of time that companies must retain records. That, in turn, has sparked demand for technologies like WORM, also known as CD-R.

Sony makes tape-based drives based on its Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT) technology, which consists of an 8mm media form-factor in a compact 3.5-inch drive that hosts chip memory in the drives' cassettes. Sony's approach competes with other tape storage methods, including LTO, supported by IBM and SuperDLT, used by Hewlett-Packard .

Sony's next-generation of tape technology is Super Advanced Intelligent Tape, or SAIT. The SAIT-1 drives, with WORM storage protection feature, are now shipping to Sony partners. They will be available to customers in the coming months.

Alan Sund, director of Sony's San Jose, Calif.-based storage group, said WORM capabilities will give SAIT tape, autoloader and library suppliers a competitive edge because no other 500GB drive is WORM-ready to allow data security to be passed along to users who are minding regulations such as HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley.

Sund told that because the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires broker-dealers and other companies to maintain two copies of regulated data, the cost savings for a tape product can be greater than optical drives. Tape picks up where optical products leave off at the low-end, easing the strain on the bottom lines of companies who need heavy-duty storage, Sund said.

Some analysts concur.

"Tape continues to be a desirable format for archival storage, and write-once solutions allow companies to economically meet their storage needs as well as to comply with mandates for record-storing," Fara Yale, research vice president at Gartner Dataquest, said in a statement.

Sund said Sony will demonstrate the WORM functionality at the Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM) conference and exposition this week in New York.

Sony partner Qualstar will ship tape libraries equipped with the new SAIT-1 WORM tape drives, while XenData will ready its Archive Series Software with support for SAIT-WORM tape cartridges.

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