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  1. Technology
February 2, 1989


By CBR Staff Writer

Vermont Research Corp, of Springfield, Vermont, which began liquidating itself last December (CI No 1,083), has changed its mind about completing the process, and says the remaining business is no longer for sale. It accompanied news of its abrupt change of heart by announcing that it will design and manufacture random access memory products at its Leatherhead, Surrey facilities here in the UK (CI No 1,106). Subsequent to the sale of its Winchester disk drive technology to Miltope Corp for $1.5m, Vermont will continue operations under its own name, and the company remains an American public corporation with 3,000 shareholders. The Leatherhead division, which currently employs 30 people, and covers 12,000 square feet, will be the manufacturing hub of the slimmed-down company, which will split its sales and support team between Leatherhead and the parent company’s Vermont site. With the recent announcement of its Diablo standard emulation for its Sierra solid state storage subsystem, Vermont intends specialise in the plug-compatible DEC market, in the way that Memorex Telex International NV and Storage Technology Corp support the IBM market with their solid state secondary storage products. The emulation enables users of any 14 mechanical disk drive, such as those once manufactured by Pertec, DRI, Wangco, and Control Data, to upgrade their secondary storage without a costly conversion. Sierra storage capacities range from 2Mb to 128Mb – those old disk drives may have been big, but they didn’t store very much data, although systems can be configured with up to 4Gb via a memory extension box. The system reduces seek time by 15mS to 30mS compared with the disks, and Vermont claims it is exceptionally reliable, with a mean time between failure of over 75,000 hours, and a mean time of repair of just 30 minutes. Vermont gave the example of the UK Central Electricity Generating Board as a customer that was particularly pleased with Sierra’s performance, claiming that peak time data retrieval never fell below two seconds, and that after a power failure the system took only three to four minutes to reload. Data security is provided by means of an integral battery support system and an integral quarter-inch tape cartridge. Prices start at around UKP5,000 per unit, and Vermont says the vast majority of its clients are replacing Diablo standard disks with Sierra, rather than enhancing their systems with the product, or buying a new sytem that incorporates solid state storage. Rapacious demands Consequently, in most of Vermont’s installations, the solid state memory replaces the disk drive at device level using the existing installed controller and does not require any software or interface changes. Vermont believes that the market for solid state storage will expand rapidly in the 1990s as input-output activity increases and disks are unable to keep up with the rapacious demands of ever faster processors, and as larger random access memory is needed to retrieve the increasing amounts of data available from satellite. The only problem with this optimism is that it is not in the interests of big companies like IBM and DEC to promote the solid state solution to system obsolescence, since they would rather sell their latest range to the customer. Furthermore, as Vermont admits, the Sierra subsystem is an unwieldy size and it is sometimes cheaper to replace a system’s software than to install solid state storage. According to Dataquest, the company is currently rated seventh in the world in the solid state mid-range market, albeit on turnover of only UKP3.2m last fiscal. Vermont’s products are primarily supplied to the OEM market, but it has distributed solid state products direct to the Ministry of Defence, and to DEC.

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