SUMMARY: R/W Magneto Optical Disk

From: Kes Masalaitis (
Date: Sat Jul 30 1994 - 00:34:27 CDT

There were 15 replies to my question about RW Optical drives and software.
I will try to summarize each with a single line. The orignal question and
the complete answers are listed below.

1. Has Maxoptics (Artecon) 1GB RW Optical drive on an IPX with GENERIC kernal.
2. Very poor luck getting tech support from Pinnacle
3. Has several types, recomends Artecon
4. recomends HP drives - includes info on HSM software
5. Has a Maxtor Tahiti II with major problems
6. Prefers Pinnacle Micro, because it needs no extra software driver
7. has 3 Fujitsu M2511A, 128MByte units. Works OK but a little slow
8. Has Artecon DSU1-300P3, works OK. Provides things to think about
9. Has Contemporary Cybernetics *Tape* Library, not working right
10. Has 100Gbyte Hewlett Packard MO jukebox and Netstor HSM. Can provide details
11. Recomends against Pinnacle
12. Recomends HP drives and AMASS HSM software
13. Has reliable HP optical jukebox and HSM package from Epic
14. Includes recent post about problems with SONY C501 MO drive
15. Has HP 88 Platter 57 GB Juke and QSTar HSM S/W. HW OK and SW troublesome

Thanks to:
From: (David Burwell (7929))
From: Adam Shostack <>
From: (Robert D. Worsham)
From: (Steve Ehrhardt)
From: (Peter Baumann)
From: Carsten Moll <>
From: (Howard Schultens)
From: (Denis Faas)
From: joef@VFL.Paramax.COM
From: "B.McCrone" <>
From: Andy Mitchell <>
From: (DrewR)
From: (Mark S. Anderson)

The original question:

While this question might not be totally appropriate for this group,
I feel others might benefit from the summary I will post when I recieve

We are intrested in both single and jukebox Magneto Optical Read/Write
drives. The major manufacturers we have looked at so far are Artecon,
Pinnacle Micro, and Contemporary Cybernetics. Does anyone have a preference
for any of these? Should I look at other manufacturers? Whose management
software is easiest to use? What should I look out for?

The replies:

From: (David Burwell (7929))

  We have a Maxoptics 1GB RW Optical drive. This is the one that Articon
sells with their name on it. It is a Tahiti IIm. It uses Maxoptics 1GB
platters, I have not been able to find a 3rd party platter. We pay $175
per platter. It is supposed to use an ISO standard 650MB platter, but
we have never tried it.
  We do not have Articon's software. We use it on an SS IPX with a GENERIC
kernal. The drive installs fairly easily and the only thing you need to
do to use a new platter is to use format to label it, then newfs it, then
mount it. It acts just like a regular HD (It does use a HD SCSI ID).
  You can find these drives at the cut rate PC houses for around $1,500.

From: Adam Shostack <>

        I've had very poor luck getting tech support from Pinnacle.
(On the order of 3-4 days for a callback.) I'll admit to not having a
support contract, but I've asked for information on one, including
average time for call resolution, and not gotten anything. I could go
with a company that has a better service dept.

From: (Robert D. Worsham)
  A previous system administrator (~ 3-4 years ago) started looking at
  opticals (Sony E-501 [650 Mb]) and tried both Pinnacle and Artecon. At
  that time, Artecon had the vastly superior drivers and that's what we
  have used up to the present. We currently have 5 drives (2 Sony E-501
  [650 Mb], 2 HP C1716T [1.3 Gb/650 MB], and 1 MaxOptics T3 [1.3 Gb/1.0
  Gb/650 MB]) all using Artecon drivers (both Solaris 2.3 and SunOS 4.1.2).
  Overall we are very pleased, although it took a while for Artecon to
  produce a Solaris version of their drivers (Oct 93), and the initial
  version had a few quirks (the disk could not be manually ejected
  after unmounting - fixed in current release :-). The nice thing about
  Artecon is that they provide 'suid' utilities which allow users to
  mount and unmount their disks on designated mountpoints (this was their
  biggest advantage 3-4 years ago :-).

  I would certainly recommend that you consider Artecon.

From: (Steve Ehrhardt)

I've been looking into jukebox systems of the type that you describe. If you
mean Hierarchical Storage Management Software (HSM) when you refer to
"management software", I've been looking at them too.

>From a hardware perspective, there are several drive/jukebox manufacturers
available from most vendors. From everything that I've seen, you'd be
best off going with the HP units. If you're not starting with a real
large system, I'd go for the 20 disk/2 drive unit that can be expanded
to support another 20 disks. (Sorry, I don't have model numbers handy.)
There's a slightly lower-cost version that's not expandable, but I like
to allow for fast growth when it comes to storage capacity.

As regards HSM software, the answers are less obvious. I've developed
a list of questions that I want to put to the various vendors, but I
haven't got a lot of answers yet. There are a few different software
packages out there that are sold by multiple vendors, so you may be
seeing the same software from multiple vendors.

A few notes on my impressions of vendors/features follow.

Epoch Systems has an HSM system, but it's very pricey. It's extra features
relate primarily to handling Oracle and other database files, so if you
aren't using these packages, they probably aren't worth the extra money.

AMASS provides one of the more commonly used HSM packages. It appears to be
basically well-designed and is very configurable (perhaps even to a fault).
Like most highly-configurable systems, it's a bit complex to deal with.

Netstor, QStar and Artecon are other HSM builders that I've looked at.
Artecon's system seems simpler than most, and is priced well. QStar
has a couple of design "features" that I question. The jury's still out
on these...

As I said before, I've got a list of questions for HSM builders, but I
haven't got it with me today. A few things to look out for are:

Will extra (and extra cost) software be required to use the HSM system
for multiple servers?

Is there a configuration file/command-line interface for functions that
I might want to automate? (GUIs are all very nice, but they're hard
to use with "cron"!)

Are migrated files represented by links or special "stub" files? Stub files
are portable to systems not supporting symlinks, but may be so large
that migrating small files may require more space than keeping them in
place. If you have lots of small files, this may present a problem.

Does the package support 2 levels of migration, i.e. can files be "aged"
off of the optical system and onto tape, for example?

Does the package always move data off of the optical disk onto a caching
disk before allowing the user to access it? If it allows the user to
access the optical disk directly, your drives may get tied up for long
periods. Also, any disk mirroring that you may use on your main disk
systems to protect active files will be bypassed, and there will only
be a single copy of the data in existance - a risk you might not want
to take.

What criteria can be used to control migration of files onto the optical
system? Make sure the ones that you think you'll need are there.

There's lots more, but I've gotten long-winded enough for now. I'd be
happy to share any data that I've collected or will collect (including
my full question list) if you're interested. Right now, though, I've
still got more questions than answers. I'd love to hear what you come
up with in your research as well.

From: (Peter Baumann)

We have a Maxtor Tahiti II, wkich has been causing major problems (lots of
corrupt disks). At purchase time it was the fastest drive available, but look
out for Ricoh drives they seen to have much better performance now, but I
have no experience with them. Let the people who reply run benchmarks on the
drives (diskspeed or iozone) to compare speed. We usually have big files on the
drives. Then the MOs are really good to use. If you are thinking of putting
vast amounts of small files on them, be aware of the fact that you will
whitness poor performance, due to long seek times.

From: Carsten Moll <>

We prefer the Pinnacle Micro, because it needs no extra software driver. The
Sun compatibility is designed into a firmware PROM that is installed into
the drive. This way the Pinnacle behaves like a harddisk.

Apart from that... The Pinnacle is the fastest MO-Drive arround...

From: (Howard Schultens)

you didn't state the capacity of the drives you are interested in, but reading
between the lines, you probably mean 5 1/4" drives of 650MB, 1.3GB or greater.
On the off chance that you might be interested in 3 1/2" drives, we have
installed 3 of them on our local network, 2 on our SparcStations (Fujitsu
M2511A, 128MByte -- there is now a 230 MByte version out). With SunOS 4.1.2
or 4.1.3, you don't need an extra driver. Works fine, albeit a little slower
than I expected going by the transfer rate. I built one directly into the
housing of a SparcStation 1 -- it required some filing -- a very inexpensive

From: (Denis Faas)

I saw you mail, and have used an optical disk from artecon for 6 mojnths,
        DSU1-300P3, and will buy another one. Some thourghts:

Requirements: Provide a means to archive projects with the added capability
                to easily referance the project.
                (I still archive my projects to tape, cpio/tar, so I can
                read them back if needed. You never know.)
drive: 1.3 Gbyte 5.25" Erasable Optical Subsytem (HP drive)
                600M on a side. Artecon is selling a new drive now.
                unit is sealed!, older units require cleaning the heads.
administration: compatable with SUN SPARC running Solaris 1.X or 2.X.
                Looks like a NFS mounted drive, ie it should comform
                to the standards. (I am on 4.1.3, and you do have to
                change the kernel to install the drive.)
user friendly: from user viewpoint - looks much like a floppy disk
                user can insert optical cartridge into drive subsystem
                user can mount the optical cartridge, (with some
                        security restrictions)
                user can format/newfs the optical cartridge.
                user can create/edit the data on the optical cartridge
                restriction- the users can not export the
                         partition, unless they use sudo.
one time cost: $3000+ for optical drive subsystem.
                (still want a second one for hardware backup)
recurring cost: $130 for 1.3G optical cartridge, or $0.10 per megabyte
                compared to $2000/2G disk dirve, or $1.00 per megabyte.
performance: No noticable degradation when editing schematics or layouts.
                Fully rewritable, random access drive with advertise
                23.5ms average access time

I will say, I do not keep the cartridge in the day for more than a day, the
intent was for quick reference, or to copy data to a current project.
I have no idea what factors may cause data to degrade. There has been
mail recently about one person having a problem with data on an optical disk.

From: joef@VFL.Paramax.COM

Hi from a voice out of the past.
While we don't have any Optical media online, we purchased a
Contemporary Cybernetics Tape Library system a few months ago.
They still don't have it working. They are having problems with their
robotics software and although they tell us it should be working,
it isn't. Their support is not very good. I also understand that
John from Maintech feels that they're expensive.

We also have a few of their Exabyte 8500 tape standalone subsystems
and recently had one fail. John has been working on it for over a week and
still doesn't have it up. He plugged in a new tape drive and the
power supply went south. He complains that he has a hard time getting
parts from them.

Perhaps you might want to keep these things in mind (among the other
issues) when looking for a vendor.

From: "B.McCrone" <>

I have a 100Gbyte Hewlett Packard MO jukebox coupled to a sun running
Hierarchical Storage software form Netstor (contact

I can give you details if you are interested.

From: Andy Mitchell <>

Buying drives from Pinnacle! We have three. They have been totally
unacceptable. Two have broken to the tune of $800 each for repairs.
I also have some limited experience witht the Tahiti drives from MaxOptix.
THey seemed ok, but I wasn't using them long enough to get a good feel
for them. I'd avoid the Pinnacle drives though. I suspect you will get this
impression from most people!

From: (DrewR)

    Your e-mail was forwarded to me regarding the R/W optical technology.
    I would like to suggest three other major manufactures of Optical
    euipment, HP, MaxOptics, and IBM.

    HP manufactures the most widely used Jukes in the world, bar none, and
    MaxOptics makes one of the fastest optical drives for the "niche"
    anamation market. IBM, although it not the fastest, it does have one
    of the largest already installed customer base.

    As for optical library management S/W, AMASS is one the most widely
    recognised products today, in the UNIX market. HP, in the last six
    months, began OEM'ing the product as a bundle with their Jukes.

    I have taken the liberty of putting your name in our database and
    forwarding it to our OSS rep, Dave Bibo. I have also put some
    information in the mail for you to look over.

    Please contact myself, or Dave, if you have any questions about the
    material. Thank you for your attention.


We use the HP optical jukebox. Very reliable. Bought as a package from Epic systems. Auto migrates files to op. disk.

From: (Mark S. Anderson)

You should be interested in the message below, posted to sun-managers two days ago:

> From Tue Jul 26 09:32:36 1994
> Sender:
> From: Glenn Carver <>
> Reply-To: Glenn Carver <>
> Followup-To: junk
> Date: Tue, 26 Jul 94 09:39:38 BST
> To:
> Subject: Optical disk problems
> X-Mdf: manderso <Anderson, Mark S> re-routed to ""
> Content-Length: 2582
> Dear all,
> For some time now I've had a SONY SMO C501 magneto-optical drive. It's proven
> to be quite unreliable so much so that I can't make it available generally to
> the users. The drive is connected to a SPARC 10/30 running 4.1.3C. It uses a
> driver from Sun's installed base group. The drive was originally bought
> from Sun.
> The problem is that over a period of time, a optical disk loaded in the drive
> and mounted on the system gradually becomes corrupt. When the disk is mounted,
> a fsck is run to check everything is ok. I've had a disk in there now for some
> months. Over the last few days I've had warning messages that some files could
> not be accessed. I've just run fsck and (as in all the times in the past) I've
> discovered that one or more blocks cannot be read. A typical error message
> from fsck is:
> THE FOLLOWING SECTORS COULD NOT BE READ: 68519, 68520, 68521, 68522, 68523, 68524, 68525, 68526, 68527,
> The only thing I can then do is to rebuild the file system and reload data from
> backup tapes.
> I'm open to any suggestions as to what the cause of this is and how to stop this
> from continually happening. Thoughts:
> 1. Dust is a big problem, but cleaning the disk or lens (with the recommended
> lens cleaner) seems to have no effect.
> 2. The drive is about 8" away from 3 1Gb magnetic drives (stacked on top of
> each other). Are the magnetic fields from these causing problems? The drive
> is about 2 ft from 2 SparcServers and 1 SparcStation.
> 3. The disk cartridges are about 3-4 years old, should I replace them?
> 4. What's causing the gradual deterioration in the file system and how do I
> stop it?
> 5. Is this a generic problem with magneto-optical drives, or would I be better
> off switching to a newer drive? Any recommendations? I'd like to use my
> existing disk packs if I could (SONY 600Mb EDM-1DA1s).
> I'm close to throwing this damn thing away but I hate to chuck out 5 grand's
> worth of hardware. Would a more modern optical drive or a Bernoulli drive be
> better?
> Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I'm at the end of my
> tether...
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Dr Glenn Carver Email:
> Centre for Atmospheric Science Phone: (44-223) 336521
> Chemistry Department Fax : (44-223) 336473
> Cambridge University Web :
> Lensfield Road, CB2 1EW
> UK
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------


We have an HP 88 Platter 57 GB JukeBox managed by
QSTar MastarMind software.

The hardware has never failed us. The software, however,
has given us a lot of trouble. First and foremost, this
software does not have the ability to erase data written
to the optical platters when you are using their
cache front-end system (to improve performance) they
say someday they hope to have this "feature" but in
the meantime you are stuck with a WORM software
package even if you have R/W drives. The cache software
is not very robust and mysteriously crashes
(running on a DEC Ultrix machine--which they say
is not their favorite, they'd rather run on SunOS 4.x)
tho we've never lost data as a result of a crash.

I've heard there is no one clear robust winner in the
JukeBox software management game, but will be curious
to see your post.

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