the world's largest disk drive

A Canadian group researching advanced networking technology says it is about to test "the world's largest disk drive" - data storage within the light waves of a 5,000-mile fiber-optic loop. Labeled the Wavelength Disk Drive (WDD), the concept promises to provide lightening-fast access to shared data at the same time that it offers a new use for excess bandwidth in optical networks. Bill St. Arnaud, senior director for advanced networks at CANARIE, an Internet research outfit funded in part by the federal government, told that an initial test of a WDD would create several gigabytes of storage within the nationwide fiber backbone known as CA*net 3.

"Today, we use optical networks for point-to-point communication," St. Arnaud said. "You send a (data) packet across and it goes off the end into a computer. What we're doing is putting a packet onto the network and letting it circle continuously around the network. It can got from Vancouver to St. John's (Newfoundland), back to Vancouver ... going around and around the network. With a WDD, he said, "the wavelengths are like tracks on a disk drive, and the routers are like read/write heads." By developing special drivers at the router level, hundreds - even thousands - of computers could access the same data simultaneously without the kind of bottleneck generated when data is served up from a single point on a network. VIA


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