LIMDOW emerges on MO path

LIMDOW emerges on MO path

The first 5.2 gigabyte magneto optical disk drives are expected to be released by the end of this year or in early 1998, according to Dave Morse, the marketing manager of HP's Storage Systems Division (part of the worldwide Information Storage Group).

In fact, the 5 1/4" MO drive is one of the success stories of the extended storage market. Its popularity among users is helped by a open and standardised format supported by a multitude of vendors.

These leading suppliers of MO jukeboxes, such as HP (which sources the basic drives from Sony) and Plasmon, have all committed to an upgrade path for the 5 1/4" MO drives.

From last year's 1.3GB drive to the current 2.6GB drive and media, the next step is to a 5.2GB drive. Each step maintains some level of compatibility, so that a 2.6 drive can read from a 1.3GB disk, but not in the other direction.

A diversion to this upgrade path is the technology called LIMDOW (light intensity modulation direct overwrite). It too is a 5 1/4" MO disk, with a major advantage: it can directly overwrite previously used media, whereas a standard MO drive requires an extra step and is therefore somewhat slower.

Even though Plasmon has announced a LIMDOW drive jukebox (sourcing drives from Hitachi, which in turn has licensed the technology from Nikon), HP is yet to announce its plans on the incompatible 5 1/4" format.

"LIMDOW will keep Sony on its toes," commented John Stark, sales development manager at HP's Storage Systems Division, "and HP may implement a LIMDOW in its jukeboxes in the future." HP's expertise is in the system robotics and product integration.

The LIMDOW drive is just another disk transport and could be easily accommodated by the system robotics.

Not so for the emerging DVD format. This variation of the compact disc will offer 4.7GB of storage per disc and has significant potential for higher-end storage applications.

"I do want you to know that we're looking at that," he said. "If you could figure out how to get a robot to handle the DVD media (without damaging it), it would be worth it."

Dave Morse expects that the next generation of 5 1/4" MO drives will appear about the same time as rewritable DVDs. "We just don't know how this is going to turn out," he said of the emerging optical technologies.

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