Sony tape system offers more than petabyte storage

August 20, 2003

New solution builds on consumer technologyThe mind-boggling potential of data storage technologies is matched only by the volume of medical imaging data that needs to be stored. Megabytes long ago gave way to gigabytes (GB), which

New solution builds on consumer technology

The mind-boggling potential of data storage technologies is matched only by the volume of medical imaging data that needs to be stored. Megabytes long ago gave way to gigabytes (GB), which have since been overshadowed by terabytes (TB). In early August, Sony released a tape storage system designed to manage more than a petabyte: 1500 terabytes.

The SAIT PetaSite can handle both medical imaging files and general business files, including patient records, billing, even personnel files and e-mail. The system, which can be installed at individual medical facilities, offers storage on demand, so organizations not yet archiving petabytes of data can start with a 10-TB library and expand from there.

"We can scale the library to start at a very low-end entry point and grow that system with the needs of the institution using it," said Tom Yuhas, director of data systems solutions for Sony Electronics' Business Systems and Solutions. "A hospital with a PACS can start testing it today, putting it into service, and as they build up their database, expand capacity with it."

Sony has been selling basic SAIT technology for medical and other applications for about two years. Earlier this month, the company began offering a high-end configuration with a 1.5-petabyte capacity.

A basic SAIT PetaSite system contains two SAIT drives, an Ethernet hub, a terminal server, and a control unit. Trial versions of PetaServe HSM software and PetaBack backup software are also included. Entry-level SAIT PetaSite systems list for $63,500. This basic system is scalable up to 12 drives and 216 cartridges, delivering up to 108 TB. Up to seven cartridge or drive consoles can be added to the basic system. The cartridge consoles allow users to add up to 330 cartridges for 165 TB of extra capacity. The drive/cartridge consoles house up to 12 additional drives and 258 additional cartridges, totaling nearly 135 TB. The SAIT format offers 500-GB capacity per half-inch, single-reel tape cartridge.

Transfer rates of up to 2.88 GB per second allow for near-line backup, and restoring a file takes just over a minute. Tape libraries built into the SAIT PetaSite come equipped with either SCSI or Fibre Channel connectivity, allowing seamless integration into PACS and across storage area networks that connect medical facilities at multiple locations.

Sony is building on technology developed for consumers. Its SAIT format uses the same Advanced Metal Evaporated (AME) technology found in the company's DVCAM, Digital Mini DV, and Hi8 video formats.

The company is seeking sales in several markets, including finance, broadcast, and oil exploration. Medical IT is appealing because of its growing reliance on digital imagery, Yuhas said.

PetaSite can be purchased directly through Sony's professional services organization, value-added resellers, and system integrators. Kuakini Medical Center, one of Hawaii's largest private acute-care hospitals, queried Sony directly. The Honolulu hospital was looking for a way to archive digital video recordings of surgery. The idea to include PACS evolved when Agfa integrated its IT system with the PetaSite technology.

"They came to us looking at how to store (digital) video, and since Sony is a player in the medical marketplace, they also wanted to know what we could provide in regard to medical imaging products," Yuhas said.

Kuakini administrators brought in Agfa to run the PACS side. This system was interfaced to Sony's PetaServe and hierarchical management software that moves data between the PACS and the tape library.

The hospital now uses the PetaSite technology to store radiological and video imagery, as well as training videos, patient medical records, and research data. Kuakini is using Sony's DTF format, not SAIT, as SAIT-formatted libraries only became available in early August. Sony and hospital administrators are discussing the transition to SAIT as a future possibility.