Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine Article Link

Demands on rugged data storage for aerospace and defense applications never have been higher, driven by the proliferation of sensors, tactical cloud computing, high-speed networking, and the need for real-time actionable intelligence.

In response, the embedded-computing and data-storage industries are responding with a wide variety of open-systems architectures, trusted computing and cyber security for data at rest and for data in motion, every-increasing capacities and speeds of data storage, power and thermal management, packaging for low size, weight, power consumption, and cost (SWaP), and cutting-edge data storage interfaces to optimize today’s military embedded computing systems.

Stuffing higher storage capacities into the same- or smaller-sized devices is a primary market driver, says Aneesh Kothari, vice president of marketing at rugged computing expert Systel Inc. in Sugar Land, Texas.

“From where we sit, the drivers are higher capacities in the same form factors and higher speeds so you can move from typical SATA drives to PCI Express and NVMe,” Kothari says. “Designers can use that enhanced speed to move from Gigabit Ethernet to 25-to-40-Gigabit Ethernet.”

Driving these higher data-storage speeds revolve around drastically increasing numbers of sensors that aerospace and defense designers envision. “What’s driving this is the idea that all these platforms are being so sensored, and you can collect massive amounts of data every second,” Kothari says. You can ingest that data at close to real-time speeds; you have so much data coming in to capture and store, and use hot-swap drives to keep up. More speed and higher capacities may require fewer hot swaps during a mission.”

Future availability of thermally and power- efficient NVMe data storage systems couldn’t come quickly enough for some designers. “The tradeoff is in your thermals,” says Systel’s Kothari. “The faster you go, and the more capacity you have, the hotter the system runs. You can have the fastest, fattest drives possible, but if it overheats, it really doesn’t do you any good. If that heat is not accounted for, the heat can become a single point of failure.”

Systel’s Kothari says he agrees that some level of security is essential in today’s aerospace and defense data storage. “We need to be able to store that data securely, whether it is for off-platform missions or during the mission for exploitation,” he says. “That includes if you are swapping drives out, taking that data and sending it downstream somewhere, taking the data back to your base. We need to take that data off the platform securely and take it to a place where you can do something with it. You have to ensure the data is not corrupted and is secure.”