British Armed Forces reap the benefits of the worlds first data storage system delivered by AMS and based on Sonys S-AIT WORM technology

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Five leading vendors of mission critical technologies, primed and successfully integrated by AMS, have together built a state-of-the-art archival system for the Defence Geographic Centre (DGC).  Offering industry leading capacities and a level of security essential for safeguarding military material, a benchmark for an archive solution that fulfils corporate regulative criteria has also been set.  As a result, the DGC have timely access to the geographic information required to plan and support military activities - and the vendors involved can deliver a proof of concept model to other markets.


Provision of geographic support to the British Armed Forces is essential for the planning of operations, the subsequent use during fighting and for ongoing terrain analysis. Now, more than ever, it is essential that digital maps, surveys and associated technical documents are instantly available to ground forces deployed on operations.  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 specialises in the design, manufacture and supply of radar and mission critical command, control and management systems to defence forces and air traffic authorities throughout the world. In November 2003, it was awarded a contract by the DGC to develop a Centralised Geographic Data Storage Facility.

Delivering Expertise - Building the team
With a remit to deliver a low cost, high density and high volume digital storage system that ensured confidentiality, integrity, availability and accountability of data at all times, AMS believed it needed to build a new type of system.  It approached data storage specialist 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. The resulting team consisted of leading tape storage vendor Sony, data management software specialist XenData and automation expert Qualstar. 

Based on Sonys industry leading S-AIT tape technology, the first tape technology to break the terabyte barrier, new standards in high-capacity tape storage were set.  Sony offered more than twice the capacity of any other vendor and ensured that the NCE partnership beat off competitive offerings from over 50 teams to win the bid. Combined with Write-once-read-many (WORM) capabilities, innovative software developed by XenData and AMS own invaluable knowledge of building military networks - the resulting system delivered up to 132 Tbytes (TB) of uncompressed data and a level of security that satisfied the most vigilant of customers ultimately, the Ministry of Defence (MOD).
 
 The level of expertise the team brought to the project was tangible with each partner becoming as immersed in the project as we were ourselves. Sonys 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.  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 DGCs existing infrastructure. Ultimately, the team has enabled us to deliver a bespoke system, within the set budget and time frames, that far exceeded the expectations of the DGC, Chris Smith, Project Manager, AMS.

The entire system was delivered, installed and commissioned in the DGCs offices in Feltham within seven months.  The contract value was 1.5 million.
 
Delivering Innovation The solution
The Centralised Geographic Data Storage Facility required a high-capacity system to store and back up hundreds of thousands of maps and other geospatial and business critical data using an integrated disk and tape storage solution.  The proposed system consisted of 1.4 TBytes of usable disk space backed up by a Qualstar tape library which, based on Sonys S-AIT technology, was to deliver capacities in excess of 110 TBytes (uncompressed).   However, with DGC responsible for the delivery of geographical data to the British Armed Forces, it was also essential that the system was capable of ensuring that the data stored was not tampered with and that expansion to remote site disaster recovery was possible.

The implementation of Sonys S-AIT WORM technology ensures that data stored on its tapes is secure and cannot be over-written at any stage - providing the foundations required for a permanent data archive. XenDatas software leverages these benefits by providing the ability to create and maintain tape replicas at remote sites for disaster recovery and in its provision of full integrity validation checks of the associated data as it is transferred to and from the mirrored archives. 

By combining its extensive experience in delivering mission critical deployments with industry leading technologies AMS was able to deliver a system that it was confident would fulfil the stringent requirements of the brief.

Delivering piece of mind Testing and accreditation
Working within the defence industry it was imperative that AMS could provide assurance that data integrity could be maintained. As a result the system was required to undergo rigorous testing.The system achieved the MODs stringent security evaluation and demonstrated that the integration of the teams mission-critical technologies not only offered industry leading capacities, but also successfully delivered the security elements necessary for the DGCs Centralised Geographic Data Storage Facility to go live. AMS gained operational usage approval in very short period of time and as a result the system was in use by the DGC only 4 weeks after completion of the installation.

Delivering a proof of concept model The future
A European Sarbanes-Oxley type initiative is imminent and regulatory and best practice guidelines for corporate information management will 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.

The AMS installation demonstrates how the disposal of specific information is not possible when data is stored on WORM media, whilst the ability to index references is.  The accreditation highlights the potential benefit of being able to demonstrate authenticity using WORM storage from an evidential weight perspective.  As a result there are compelling arguments in favour of WORM tape solutions and for the AMS installation as a benchmark Corporate Archive for a compliant environment.
 
 Having passed government evaluation that assures the highest levels of security, the use of the Centralised Geographic Data Storage Facility by the DGC demonstrates the validity of the system as a concept model suitable for future corporate archives, comments Mike Law, of Sony Electronics.  With S-AIT WORM, our technology partners have effectively benchmarked a product that can be delivered, and tailored, to suit the growing needs of a variety of businesses working within increasingly regulative environments. We are certain we are going to be working with them again in the very near future.

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