Only 1% of paper going into organisations is digitally coded, 5% is put on microfilm and the remaining 94% remains in paper format. And use of paper is increasing by 25% each year. Racal Electronics Plc has set up a new unit within its data communications division, Racal Imaging Systems Ltd, seeking a share of the UKP10,000m market forecast for optical disk-based document storage, transmission and retrieval systems by 1991. The company has its first order, worth UKP100,000, from the UK government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency. Racal is selling a multi-user Unix-based product, built around Sun Microsystems’ Sun 3 workstation backed by an optical disk subsystem. Because the system, called Reos, uses high-capacity optical disks it is good at handling unstructured information such as images, which need a minimum 50Kb to encode and store information; one 12 disk holds around 60,000 A4 pages and costs about UKP200. Racal is supporting optical drives from Optimem, Optical Storage and Hitachi, and for mass storage, companies can buy a juke box autolaoder from Cygnet or Hitachi. Racal Imaging Systems, based in Fleet, Hampshire, yesterday showed a basic entry system, using a Canon scanner as an input device, which sends files to a magnetic disk buffer, which are then brought up on screen and indexed. The system had built-in Ethernet interface and SNA support for IBM mainframe access. In this case the Sun engine will act as a cluster controller enabling up to 24 sessions to take place with the host. Such a system with scanner, printer, basic Sun workstation, 150Mb Winchester disk, 2Gb optical disk and one Sun 3 is UKP89,000. Racal has spent two years developing software and adding to the Sun hardware in conjunction with research consultancy Cimtech. Racal developed the scanner board, printer board in each terminal and an image conversion board. The optical drives use an SCSI port. Sun’s Network File System is the backbone of the distributed computer system, along with Berkeley’s underlying primitives. Racal will market the system direct in Europe and it is looking for partners already strongly rooted in the field, such as 3M and Kodak, to sell it in the US and Japan. Racal Imaging Systems is made up of 33 people, all of whom were working on the Reos project in Racal’s research and development arm, Racal Information Technology Development. The company gets full financial backing from its parent and it claims its only multi-user competition comes from Filenet, where Olivetti is an investor and sells the system in Europe – and made its first sale to Britannia Building Society. What makes Racal think it can do better? Our system is almost 75% cheaper than theirs, says sales and marketing manager Terry Plume.
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