Write Once Read Many (WORM) tape systems are beginning to be deployed and provide more capacity and possibly faster access than optical archive systems. They also lend themselves to working with data compliance regulations and a recent military implementation is an example of both aspects.

Provision of mapping data to the British Armed Forces is essential for the planning of operations, subsequent use during fighting and for ongoing terrain analysis. With fast reaction forces it is essential that digital maps, surveys and associated technical documents are instantly available to ground forces deployed on operations anywhere around the globe. That’s a lot of data..

The Defence Geographic Centre (DGC) is responsible for providing hard and softcopy products to UK and Allied military forces, in particular to support current operations around the world. AMS, with focuses on the design, manufacture and supply of radar and command, control and management systems to defence forces and air traffic authorities throughout the world, was, in November 2003, awarded a contract by the DGC to develop a Centralised Geographic Data Storage Facility (CGDSF).

That meant a way of delivering mapping data very quickly to armed forces planners. AMS designed and built an archival system for the data. The resulting archival system also meets corporate regulative criteria – it’s not just a niche Ministry of Defence (MOD) system.

The remit was to deliver a low cost, high density and high volume digital storage system that ensured confidentiality, integrity, availability and accountability of. For the storage side of this AMS used the NCE Computer Group (Europe). to bring together a high calibre team capable of working within the brief of the DGC to develop a state-of-the-art storage facility. NCE used a group of supplier’s products: Qualstar for tape libraries; Sony for super-AIT tape; and XenData for data management

The Qualstar library, which offered Write-Once-Read-Many (WORM) capabilities, as well as software developed by XenData, holds to 132 Tbytes (TB) of uncompressed data and a high level of security that met MOD needs.

The CGDSF required a high-capacity system to store and back up hundreds of thousands of maps and other geospatial and critical data using an integrated disk and tape design. The proposed system consisted of 1.4 TBytes of usable disk space backed up by a Qualstar tape library more than 130 TB of raw, uncompressed, data. It was also essential that the system could ensure the data was tamper proof – you wouldn’t want the army using corrupted maps. There was also a need for expansion to remote site disaster recovery.

The implementation of WORM technology ensured that data stored on tape is secure and cannot be over-written at any stage – the clear basis for a permanent data archive. XenData's software provides the ability to create and maintain tape replicas at remote sites for disaster recovery and has a provision for full integrity validation checks as data is transferred to and from the mirrored archives.

Chris Smith, the AMS project manager, said that off-the-shelf projects were not used; in-development products were selected and existing products modified; "NCE worked with XenData and Qualstar to ensure that modifications to the software and robotics ensured that we could reliably integrate S-AIT WORM into DGC's existing infrastructure. Sony's S-AIT WORM technology was still in development at the time of the project and as a result the solution was literally tailored to meet our specifications. "

The entire system was delivered, installed and commissioned in the DGC's offices in Feltham in seven months with a contract value was £1.5 million.

A European Sarbanes-Oxley-type initiative is imminent and regulatory and best practice guidelines for corporate information management could be responsible for the re-emergence of WORM as a preferred repository for corporate archiving. British Standard PD0008 outlines how companies look after data, how they should record that data and how they access that data to maximise evidential weight of transactions to use if a company should ever end up in court.

In particular it provides guidelines on how the risk of stored data being modified inadvertently or maliciously, and the ability to detect any such modifications, varies with the type of storage sub-system and medium.

This army installation demonstrates that WORM tape can be used for the storage of important data with fast access, integrity and disaster recovery attributes.