WORM (Write-Once-Read-Many) technology is used in many
applications because of the integrity of the data and the accepted legal
admissibility of files stored using the technology. Fundamentally there are two
basic kinds of writeable media today, sector based and non-sector based media.
An example of sector-based media is magneto optical. MO technologies are
reasonably fast, store just over 9 GB per disk and fundamentally rewriteable.
Examples of non-sector based media are CD-R and DVD-R. DVD-R is also reasonably
fast and has a similar capacity as MO.
DVD-RAM is a sector-based medium, however it is not known as a
write-once technology. So does it match up to other well-known archive media?
Let's first discuss price. Sector-based media are more expensive than
DVD-R, a good deal more expensive. This seems to be the big attraction to DVD-R.
Though, when considering the importance of archived data one would think this
is a small consideration. Why pay more for sector-based media solutions? The
data archive is likely to be one of a company's biggest corporate assets.
current write standard for optical is UDF (Universal Disk Format). ANSI, ECMA,
and ISO set out to develop an international universal format for information
interchange. Initially known as Non-Sequential Recording or NSR, it was
developed as an information interchange standard to succeed the CD standard
9660. Thus the International Standard ISO/IEC 13346 was created. The standard
is different from ISO 9660 in that it was created to write as well as read
information among different operating systems. The initial plan was designed to
support non-sequential media and would enable information to be exchanged over a
variety of operating systems. It was expected to gain acceptance based on the
popular CD-ROM based technology. OSTA set out to develop a specification as a
subset of the NSR standard that could be brought to market quicker with the
ability to address data interchange between systems. Thus, the Universal Disk
Format was created.
An industry consortium of leading companies in
the optical storage industry developed UDF. Most of these companies are the
driving force behind the various DVD standards today. UDF is based on the
ISO/IEC 13346 standard. It is in fact a subset of that standard and is fully
compliant with ISO/IEC 13346. UDF was designed as a follow-on standard to
support DVD based on CD-ROM, CD-R and CD-RW. It was conceived that through the
use of UDF, DVD based content can reside on the same disk and be accessed by a
wide variety of computer systems as well as the consumer DVD player in the home.
along with all the CD technologies, is a sequential-based medium that spirals
out from the center of the disk. Starting from the center of the disk, each bit
is written next to the last bit written in a sequential order, regardless if the
information is related or not. This is done, because there are no sectors on
the media. The data can be read in a random sequence once written, however, the
write process is sequential.
With CD technology, disk at once or
session writes were not an issue because the disks were only 650 MB, a
manageable amount of data for most applications. Now, however optical
technology can store up to 4.7 GB per side. This is, by most standards, quite a
lot of data to have to cache or to have to fill prior to closing the media out.
uses a session-based write format that requires the disk stay in "open
session" so long as the user would like to continue to write to it. This
means that if the application creates files smaller than about 4 GB, which is
the majority of data out there today, and the user would like to fill the disk
before closing the session, the user has 2 choices.
The user can
cache information on a hard drive until a capacity threshold is met and then
write all the data at once. A problem with caching prior to writing to the disk
is, in many applications hard drive caching does not meet various U.S. and
International regulations governing applications such as financial, securities
and medical records storage.
The other option is to write to the disk,
opening new sessions as necessary. Once the disk is full, the disk must be "closed".
Once the disk has been closed, it can no longer be written to and is now read
Both situations can be a problem in an archive environment.
In the first case, data is not truly archived until the data is on
the archive media. Caching prior to writing to the disk in many cases does not
meet the regulations governing write-once applications. Data can, in some
cases, stay in cache up to months before enough data is collected in order to
fill a disk. The data is still vulnerable while on the hard drive and even
during the writing process.
In the second situation, all the data on
the disk is quite vulnerable while the disk is "open". As in the
caching situation, it may take several weeks or months to fill a disk, and as a
result, the disk will have to be kept "open". While the disk is in an "open"
session mode, it cannot be universally read outside the system that created it.
Therefore the information cannot be exported or shared outside the network.
Additionally any time during the process a bad write can occur and corrupt the
entire disk. If this happens, the disk becomes unreadable. A bad write can
occur on any session of an open disk for a number of reasons--dust, dirt,
fingerprints, scratches, or even a defect during the manufacturing process. Any
one of these possibilities are issues to be considered. It must also be noted
at this point that all DVD-R media are unprotected and exposed to the open
environment no cartridges.
In addition to the "open
session" issues, there are performance issues to be considered as well.
Recordable media has directory structures describing where data
is stored on the media along with other important information. In the case of
DVD-R media, the directory structures have to be updated with each new session,
however, because the media must be written in a sequential manner, with each new
session, a new updated directory is written. This has the effect that the drive
must search several directory locations in order to find the data on the disk.
With each new directory entry, the read performance goes down as the drive must
skip around to find the relevant directory information containing the
information necessary to retrieve the data the user is looking for.
the case of sector based MO or DVD-RAM, an area of the disk can be set aside for
the directory information. This allows all appended information to be in the
same area on the disk ensuring the read speeds to maintain maximum performance
throughout the life of the media regardless how many writes are necessary to
fill the disk.
There also is a problem with appending files.
If a file is appended on DVD-R media, the new file must be written in
the next open block in the sequence. This means that related files would not be
next to each other; in fact, they may not even be on the same piece of media.
This can be a real problem in a records management environment such as the
medical industry, where patient's records are scattered over a number of volumes
in a storage library, thus causing the library to jump from one piece of media
to the next in order to collect all the data, should a doctor need to review the
With sector based media, blocks can be allocated
for future appending files, thus allowing related files to be all in the same
area and on the same disk. When considering the media swap time of most
libraries, this can be a very big time advantage, and can enhance the
reliability of the system, as the library does not have to do as many swaps on
Another area where sector based media is far more robust
for archiving of critical information is media defect management.
and DVD-R media have historically been unforgiving when it comes to recovering
from a write failure. Users have reported frustration with having to queue up
enough information to write a complete disk, only to face write errors during
the disk imaging process resulting in corrupt media. This problem has fueled an
attitude among users that the data stored on R media is not necessarily
safe and reliable.
On the other hand, sector based media and the
drives that write to them have much more extensive defect management software
built into the on-board firmware to retry, map-around and manage any possible
bad areas on the media to ensure no user data or directory information is
written in those areas and the media remains accessible over long periods of
time. Sector based drives have defect management as part of device interface.
Vendors writing software for sector based media can store duplicate directory
entries, map bad sectors out of existence, and retry errors when reported.
However, probably most important of all and the biggest differentiator is, if a
sector does go bad, the software controlling the drive and media continues to
give the user access to the remaining massive amounts of information stored on
When is WORM really WORM?
Write-once is just
that. WORM has been historically tied to the storage technologies such as
optical disk because the first optical disks required a physical change on the
recording surface that was impossible to undo. Today, most WORM hardware
technologies are fundamentally rewriteable with an electronic write protect
process through firmware in the storage device. The result is an archive system
that will only allow a bit sector to be written once and then never changed
again. The system includes hardware, media, software and procedures on how to
handle data and media. In an archive system a bit sector on the media within
can be accessed an infinite number of times for reads, but the data cannot be
changed. If the file system used in the archive system is a rewriteable file
system such as NTFS or UDF, data is treated in a different way than with a WORM
file system. An archive file system provides no method of overwriting data or
directory entries. While a rewriteable file system has to be told by the device
that it cannot change data already written.
Magnetic disk and tape will
always be fundamentally erasable because they are magnetic media. If the disk
is subject to strong enough magnetic field, the media will become unreadable and
need to be reformatted. This has been one attraction to optical storage.
Regardless of the amount of magnetic field subjected to an optical disk, the
data remains unchanged.
Additionally, file systems designed for
magnetic disks do not work well with WORM optical media. Magnetic file systems
can update information stored in the directory or data areas. WORM media does
not allow this functionality by design. There have been software vendors that
have modified versions of NTFS or NFS that work with WORM media, yet the
fundamental problem continues to be file system overhead. These file systems
must rewrite entire directories or files to new locations on WORM media, because
the original directories cannot be modified.
Another crucial issue
here is the migration to other operating system versions or platforms over the
life of the data. While this is rarely considered when a new system is
purchased, it becomes a significant concern for the user as operating system
vendors evolve product over time or produce new systems, which often times
change file formats on magnetic media. Even the slightest changes in the file
system can cause difficulties for a user that has massive amounts of archive
information stored on long-term removable media.
In most cases, WORM or
other archive-based applications are transactional-based applications. Data or
directory information should be able to be written at any time without
increasing disk usage or overhead beyond the additional file space required for
the data file itself and the small space required for the given entry to the
directory describing that data. Data and directory information should be safe
from intentional or accidental file changes or deletion. Sector based optical
media, both MO and DVD-RAM, provide this capability when combined with a file
system designed specifically for WORM and archive functionality applications.
A Better Way to Archive
Pegasus is known for its file
system and volume management software for optical disk technologies. InveStore®
is storage management software that recognizes and supports many different third
party and industry standard file formats in use with various forms of optical
media. One such format written by Pegasus specifically to manage data that is
write once in nature is the Archive File System (AFS), or Pegasus-AFS.
use in Financial, Medical, Insurance, Transportation, Government, Law
Enforcement and many other archive applications for the past 15 years, the
Pegasus-AFS was designed specifically for the unique characteristics of optical
media. Matched with MO WORM or DVD-RAM sector based media, this creates a solid
reliable high performance archive solution with top-notch security and data
tracking mechanisms. To offer users of DVD-R and CD-R a more reliable and robust
solution for DVD, Pegasus provides DVD-Archive for DVD-RAM based hardware. The
same reliable file system that has been running with erasable-based MO media
without failure for the past 15 years is now offered for DVD-RAM media and
libraries, providing the user with considerable savings on the library hardware.
Media are priced relatively the same as MO for the same capacity of double-sided
disks. And, the Pegasus DVD-Archive software supports mixing of single-sided
CD-ROM and DVD-ROM media in the same library as the double-sided writeable
DVD-RAM media all accessible under a single user interface and drive
letter access! Each media or spanned volume set appears as sub-directories to
the application or user.
The Advantages to Using an Archive
File System in This Way Are Manifold.
The Pegasus- Archive File
System (AFS) provides some special features that uniquely identify it as a true
archive file system. Unlike more typical file systems, the Pegasus-AFS provides
no method of overwriting data or directory entries. The AFS, by design, provides
no ability to reclaim space. It is a fully historical file system that provides
a complete transaction based audit trail of any and all changes to either the
data or the meta-data. Most other so-called WORM file systems only provide
snapshots of the system. The user must decide when they want to take a snapshot
and then instruct the file system to do so. ALL changes to the disk between
snapshots are lost with no audit trail.
The Pegasus-AFS incorporates a
highly specialized meta-data structure that allows the user to easily and
quickly see, not only what has changed, but when it was changed as well. The
user can determine if the attributes of a given file have changed, whether a
file has been renamed or not (the user can quickly see both the old path\name
and the new path/name) and what sections of the file data have been changed. The
Pegasus-AFS provides all the features required to implement a complete
change/document control system.
- Legacy data is often subject to technology innovation since, as technology
evolves, older product is no longer supported. Therefore, older hardware needs
to be upgraded or replaced. If the old product has write-once applications but
the new product does not, the customer may not be able to access legacy data.
By relying on a WORM file system rather than hardware, the data will be
accessible no matter what the supported technology as the file system can manage
data on all supported devices.
InveStore® has the added benefit
that it can virtually manage them from a single access point, whether it be a
drive letter or IP address. This means that a DVD library can run under the
same drive letter as the CD library and even the MO library, all as a single
volume or repository. All devices are accessible and manageable as if they were
a single device, and individual disks or volume sets are accessible as
sub-directories under the assigned drive letter. All data can be exchanged
between devices by means of drag and drop. This ability to access legacy data
allows for migration of data over technologies over time: from CD to DVD to
BlueRay or whatever comes next. This translates to a lower cost of management
- A write-once file system tracks EVERY change made to the media. The
Pegasus-AFS does not allow overwrites of any data or directory structures on
media. A complete audit trail is kept for all writes and appends made to the
media. Utilizing the Pegasus-AFS, the system prevents any file(s) from being
physically deleted from MO or DVD-RAM media.
- Once data is written to a MO optical or DVD-RAM disk utilizing the
Pegasus-AFS, data will only be readable by networks with access to a system
running the Pegasus software. If media are removed and taken to a system
operating some other optical disk management software, the disk is protected
either by the physical characteristics of the media (WORM), or by the setting of
a hidden system bit, as on DVD-RAM media, which prevents any changes to the
media outside of the Pegasus-AFS system control, such as formatting or unwanted
writes or deletes.
- The Pegasus-AFS software is and will remain operating system independent
and transportable. This means that disks written to under the first MS DOS and
Novell-based systems are still readable today by our latest software.
Applications of optical media boil down to long-term data retention. "Long-term"
data often outlives the operating system where the optical storage hardware is
installed. Also, optical disk media is removable, creating transportability
possibilities from operating system to operating system that require an OS
independent and consistent data access approach.
There is significantly less likelihood of changing the
contents of a record once it has been stored on an archive file system.
The smaller the chance for alteration, the fewer possible challenges
to record integrity; the fewer challenges to record trustworthiness in the
litigation context, the faster and cheaper disputes get resolved. A write-once
archive file system is simply a more prudent decision for the safety and
retention of corporate assets. This AFS provides the security that hardware
vendors currently cannot support and responsible corporate consumers demand.
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