Navy missile range taps Sun to prevent data loss

The Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility, which relies on advanced instruments to test missiles at a range located off a Hawaiian island shore, recently purchased a fault-tolerant Sun Microsystems Inc. computer system to prevent the loss of valuable test data.

The missile range, headquartered at the Barking Sands complex located at the end of a road on Kauai island, purchased the Sun fault-tolerant system because reliable information is critical to testing, according to Thomas Kreidler, president of Sun Microsystems Federal Inc.

"Bottom line for the Navy is that this system will help us provide a more accurate, reliable integrated range picture," said Scott Fisher, project manager for the missile range. "What this means is that if any part of the server goes down, the system will automatically switch to another part of the system and continue to function. Any problem with the system would be completely transparent to the user, since one part of the system is working at the same time as the other part of the system."

Mark Dowd, a Honolulu-based Sun marketing representative, said the missile range needs a computer system that remains running at all times "because when your testing a multimillion-dollar missile, you don't want to lose telemetry data on the shot."

Dowd said Sun provided the missile range with a Netra server, which consists of two 450 enterprise-class servers joined at the hip and mounted in one rack, with the second system ready to take over in nanoseconds if the first system fails.

John Leahy, a marketing director at Sun Federal, said the Netra server has a reliability rate of 99.999 percent. The server averages only about five seconds a year in downtime.

That kind of reliability is essential to missile testing, in which there is only one chance to gather data from the high-speed object.

The fault-tolerant system replaces the current Automated Precision IFF Surveillance System, which collects data from all the surveillance radars and provides critical displays to range safety and range control personnel, Fisher said.

Dowd said the fault-tolerant Vetra originally was developed for critical telecommunications applications, a market in which such highly reliable devices used to cost millions of dollars. Although he declined to name the cost of the system sold to the missile range, Dowd said the single-unit retail cost of Vetra systems can be measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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