Military hard drive manufacturers balance the benefits of spinning-media and solid-state data storage

By John Keller

There was a time not long ago when military hard drive manufacturers believed the military data storage industry was moving exclusively to solid-state data storage. Traditional military hard drives made from spinning magnetic media were thought to be too delicate for punishing military systems in the field, where extremes in shock, vibration, temperature, and other harsh-environment operating conditions are the norm.

Military hard disk makers these days, however, have a whole new outlook. Spinning-media hard drives are no longer the shrinking violets they once were, and today are appropriate for the vast majority of military applications, even in milspec environments. Their primary advantages are low cost and high data capacity compared to solid state data storage. Reliability often is not an issue.

Today's spinning-media hard disks "are certainly more rugged" then they used to be, points out Amos Deacon III, president of military data storage specialist Phoenix International in Orange Calif. "The error correction capabilities of the drives have increased, and technically I have seen the published specifications of 3.5-inch devices go from a spec of eight or 10 Gs to 40 Gs in an operational environment; the same with vibration. Now you can throw those things against the wall, and they'll still work."

The increase in ruggedness of military hard drives comes from the reduction in mass of the head assemblies and in the data storage media itself, Deacon explains. Not only are standard-sized hard disks becoming more rugged, but so also are their 2.5-inch notebook computer drives, which add to the size, weight, and power (SWAP) advantages of spinning-media hard disks.

Perhaps the most significant advantage of spinning-media disks is their cost relative to solid-state storage. Take a 600-gigabyte data storage system, Deacon says. A conventional spinning-media hard disk costs perhaps less than $1,000. Ruggedize and seal that same hard disk and the cost goes up to about $2,500. Yet use solid-state memory for 600-gigabyte drive and the cost can go to more than $10,000, Deacon says.

Military hard drive manufacturers also are becoming much more innovative in packaging than they once were, points out Vladymir Rogov, vice president and director of marketing and design at military data storage maker Z Microsystems Inc. in La Jolla, Calif.

Often it is the need for spinning-media hard disks to operate at high altitudes aboard aircraft as part of military avionics systems that drives manufacturers to hermetically seal their disks.

The reason for this is how a spinning-media disk works. The read-write heads essentially travel over the disks on a cushion of air. At altitudes higher than about 10,000 feet, the air cushions get thin and the disks can cease to function. Seal in the air, however, and the hard disks can function to altitudes as high as 30,000 feet in unpressurized areas.

"We had to hermetically seal our hard drives to go at very high altitudes," Rogov explains. When they did that, his engineers opened many opportunities for aircraft applications where high capacities are necessary.

"With the increase in storing imagery, very high capacities are required," Rogov says. Z Micro offers a hermetically sealed, ruggedized raid hard disk system with four removable, hot-swap "brick" modules -- each module with six terabytes of hard disk storage. The system is 7.1/4 inches high and fits in a standard electronics rack. "This is 24 terabytes in a 19-inch rack; that is a big deal," Rogov says.

For the most environmentally demanding applications, such as the intense vibration of a helicopter, solid-state hard drives often are the only alternative, Deacon and Rogov agree. Extremes in heat and cold also can rule out spinning-mass drives.

"Solid-state device buys you is significantly higher environmental specifications beyond shock and vibration," Deacon says. "In a rugged or deployed environment, rotating devices have problems with temperature; you can't go below 5 degrees Celsius or the hard drive will not spin up. With hot temperatures it is not so much the mechanical operation, but the cooling of the devices that run the hard drives that is important. The high end is about 55 Celsius. It won't burn up the drive, but it will significantly reduce their MTBF [mean times between failures]."

Many industry experts still believe that solid-state memory eventually will become the dominant storage media for rugged hard disks, but that time is in the future. "If only there were equal price and equal capacity," Rogov says. "Solid state is the future. It is very cost-driven, but it will go there one day."

Company information

ACT/Technico

Warminster, Pa.
www.acttechnico.com

Adtron
Phoenix
www.adtron.com

Ampex Data Systems
Redwood City, Calif.
www.ampexdata.com

BiTMICRO Networks
Fremont, Calif.
www.bitmicro.com

Cepoint Networks
Nashua, N.H.
www.cepoint.com

Conduant Corp.
Longmont, Colo.
www.conduant.com

CRU DataPort
Vancouver, Wash.
www.cru-dataport.com

Crystal Group
Hiawatha, Iowa
www.crystalpc.com

Cyberchron Rugged Systems
Cold Spring, N.Y.
www.cyberchron.com

Dolphin Interconnect Solutions
Marlborough, Mass.
www.dolphinics.com

EMC Corp.
Hopkinton, Mass.
www.emc.com

Formation Inc.
Moorestown, N.J.
www.formation.com

General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems
Washington
www.gd-ais.com

InPhase Technologies
Longmont, Colo.
www.inphase-technologies.com

Mountain Optech
Longmont, Colo.
www.mt-optech.com

PFU Systems
Santa Clara, Calif.
www.pfusystems.com

Phoenix International
Orange, Calif.
www.phenxint.com

Red Rock Technologies
Scottsdale, Ariz.
www.redrocktech.com

Seakr Engineering Inc.
Centennial, Colo.
www.seakr.com

Signatec Inc.
Newport Beach, Calif.
www.signatec.com

STEC Inc.
Santa Ana, Calif.
www.stec-inc.com

Sypris Data Systems
San Dimas, Calif.
www.datatape.com

Technology Advancement Group (TAG) Inc.
Dulles, Va.
www.tag.com

L3 Communications Targa Systems Division
Ottawa
www.targasystems.com

Vanguard Rugged Storage
Boulder, Colo.
www.vanguard-rugged.com

Z Microsystems Inc.
San Diego
www.zmicro.com




Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

VPX3-453 3U VPX Virtex-6/8640D Digital Signal Processor

The Curtiss-Wright VPX3-453 is a high performance 3U VPX DSP and FPGA processor card that combine...

CHAMP-FX4 6U OpenVPX Virtex-7 FPGA Processor Card

The CHAMP-FX4 is the flagship 6U product in Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions’ family of user-prog...

PMC-E2001 Audio/Acoustic Waveform Generating PMC Card

PMC-E2001 Delta-sigma PMC features 16-bit resolution with 8 Analog Outputs and 4 Analog Inputs wi...

PC/104 SBC and Peripherals

Kontron PC/104 Standalone Single Board Computers (SBCs) serve in every format, even with consiste...

General Micro "Horizon" C299

The C299 Horizon is a third generation, 6U cPCI SBC module based on GMS’ upgradable CPU technolog...

Rugged Mobile Communications Server

Advanced communications server designed to be deployed in environments where it needs to meet cer...

API DC Link Power Film Capacitors

High reliability DC link capacitors for power inverter applications which require superior life e...

THINFAN

12- 32 VDC ELECTRONICS COOLING FAN,AEROSPACE PEEK,0.040 KG, 38 dB(A), -55C TO +85C OPERATING, MIL...

Silicones

Master Bond’s silicones are available in both one part and two part versions that offer the advan...

Epoxies

Master Bond offers an extensive range of one and two part epoxies for a variety of applications a...

Related Companies

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...

Kontron

Driving the world’s embedded computing platforms Kontron is a global leader in embedded computing technology.&n...

General Micro Systems Inc

Since 1979, General Micro Systems has been providing the most diverse line of single-board computers in the industry....

Elma Electronic Inc

Who we are...   About Elma Electronic Systems   The Systems division of Elma Electronic Inc. supplies the

API Technologies Corp

Who We Are API Technologies is a dominant technology provider of RF/microwave, microelectronics, and security technol...

Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc (X-ES)

 Extreme Engineering Solutions, Inc. (X-ES) is a leader in the design, manufacture, and support of standard and ...

Raycom Electronics

Raycom Electronics, Inc., a subsidiary of Electro Technik Industries (ETI), was incorporated in 1965.  The compa...

Advanced Conversion Technology Inc

ACT designs and manufactures, since 1981, an extensive range of custom AC/DC and DC/DC power supplies (linear, rack-m...

Crane Aerospace & Electronics

When failure is NOT an option...rely on Crane Aerospace & Electronics. We supply high-density, high-reliability c...

Amphenol Pcd

Designs, manufactures, and supplies interconnect products for military and aerospace applications. Provides users in...
Wire News provided by   

Press Releases

Low Viscosity, One Part Cyanoacrylate Is Non-Toxic and Meets ISO 10993-5 Specifications

Master Bond MB250NT is widely used for a variety of applications ranging from repair to high speed producti...

Thermally Conductive, Two Component Epoxy Passes USP Class VI Tests and ISO 10993-5 Specifications

With biocompatibility and cytotoxicity certifications, Master Bond EP21AOLV-2Med is often selected for bond...

One Component, Snap Cure Epoxy Features High Strength Properties

Suitable for a variety of applications in the electronic, aerospace and OEM industries, Master Bond EP3SP5F...

One Part Epoxy Resists up to 500°F and Meets NASA Low Outgassing Specifications

Master Bond Supreme 12AOHT-LO is a one component epoxy for a variety of bonding and sealing applications in...

VICTORY Shared Processing, Fire Control Computer, and Switch for Ground Vehicles Introduced by Curtiss-Wright

Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has introduced a new fully i...

CURTISS-WRIGHT CONGRATULATES NORTHROP GRUMMAN ON SUCCESSFUL FIRST FLIGHT OF SECOND MQ-4C TRITON UAS

Curtiss-Wright Corporation’s Defense Solutions division applauds Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) o...

Curtiss-Wright’s New Rugged Mobile IP Router Subsystem Features an Integrated Cisco® 5915 ESR Router

Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division, a Cisco® Systems Solution T...

GE Announces First Sub-Credit Card-Sized Multi-Function High Definition (HD) Video Tracker

HUNTSVILLE, AL.— OCTOBER 13, 2014—GE’s Intelligent Platforms business today announced at AUSA (October 13-...

Webcasts

Meeting the Gen3 backplane challenge with OpenVPX and COTS

Tight Pentagon budgets mean military systems must stay in the field for longer than ever before. This doesn't mean obsolete technology, however. Today's military electronics are being upgraded constantly, an...
Sponsored by:

Design Strategy Considerations for DO-178C Certified Multi-core Systems

Join Wind River to learn how system architecture and design choices can minimize your DO-178C certification challenges.

Sponsored by:

Flying, Sailing or Driving - The Rugged, Embedded Intel-based Server that goes where you need it!Flying Sailing or Driving

Leveraging the power of server-class processors is no longer relegated to the confines of data centers. Through several innovations, Mercury Systems has ruggedized Intel’s server-class chips for deployment. ...
Sponsored by:

All Access Sponsors


Mil & Aero Magazine

April 2015
Volume 26, Issue 4
file

Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Follow Us On...



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE