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NSM 6000 Enterprise-Level CD/DVD Jukebox

David Doering

EMedia, March 2000
Copyright © Online Inc.

NSM 6000 Enterprise-Level CD/DVD Jukebox
synopsis: The Mercedes of the jukebox world, NSM has responded well to customer needs with its latest jukeboxes, including the enterprise-level 6000. NSM is taking a "design your own jukebox" approach with its new offerings, providing modular systems that can be packed and expanded with just about any combination of CD-ROM, CD-R, or DVD-RAM drives in the towers. The system also offers tighter integration with the PioNT software product, which offers a mountable file system that makes the NSM 6000 as easy to use as any local drive, and can record to two or more CD-R discs for short runs of a title. This user-definable setting gives network users a capability they couldn't have on their own standalone systems.

price: $43,245 as tested

NSM Jukebox
275 Marcus Boulevard, Unit C
Hauppauge, NY 11788
800/238-4676; 678/475-1851
Fax 678/475-1852

PoiNT Software & Systems
(Same address as NSM in U.S. and Canada)

The Mercedes of the jukebox world, NSM has been keeping a close watch on customer demands over the last year. As a result, it has taken a couple of significant steps to improving its product line. First, it decided to simplify the naming of its products by using a numerical scheme. More importantly, it has aimed for integration of its products with the PoiNT jukebox management software. By doing so, it hopes to improve the performance of the box and extend the number of services that that box provides.

A recent evaluation of the newly enhanced software with the NSM product line demonstrates that this integration does make a valuable difference over purchasing a more generic solution. The timing of the testing also enabled an examination of the new DVD-RAM version of the NSM jukebox, which was not available in time for the DVD-RAM jukebox roundup published in December 1999 [Doering, pp. 51-56--Ed.].

a rose by any other name

NSM is taking a "design your own jukebox" approach with its new offerings, calling its principal product line the "Modular Series" and offering just about any combination of CD-ROM, CD-R, or DVD-RAM drives in the towers. Also, the traditional mail slot is now an option.

In addition, NSM continues to offer its venerable Mercury series of jukeboxes, including the latest Mercury 40DVD. The 40DVD incorporates four 2.6GB DVD-RAM drives along with 150 media slots in three 50-disc magazines, which brings that line up-to-date with the latest technology.

For our tests, we looked at both the NSM 2000 and the NSM 6000. The 2000 is a "desktop" model from 60 to 135 slots, depending on the number of drives installed. The NSM 6000 has 410 to 620 slots, and thus is tailored for the enterprise market.

The NSM 6000 is a direct descendant (comprising, essentially, the same hardware) of the NSM Galaxy jukebox reviewed last April [Doering, p. 78-80--Ed.]. In our previous review, we remarked on how much we liked NSM's approach to magazines. The 6000 includes both internally accessible 50-disc magazines and the externally accessible 15-disc packs. The 50-disc magazines allow for quick bulk-loading either of titles or of blank CD-R media. The 15-disc packs allow for simpler management of project files on CD/DVD (as a single project or client discs would fit into the 15-disc form factor well).

We also noted the continued bullet-proof construction of the jukebox, which seems tailored for a high-demand and/or high-availability environment. The 6000 also has the capacity that many companies are looking for in a CD-R or DVD-RAM jukebox, as the minimum 410 slots allow for over a terabyte of data on DVD or a quarter-terabyte with CD-R. With a reduced number of drives, the system holds up to 620 discs, making the DVD count 1.5TB! (Imagine then when the 4.7GB RAM drives come online--that puts this capacity at 3TB.)

DVD-RAM ahead

The NSM 6000 had a few teething problems with the Toshiba DVD-RAM drive firmware, but those have all been ironed out. The system performed without difficulty during our testing, and was again anticlimactic in providing virtually no troubles for even the most diligent reviewer to trouble-shoot. The standard Windows Explorer let us drag-and-drop content to the individual DVD-RAM discs just as we did with hard disks. The major difference in working with the media was simply the nomenclature for the drive, rather than the behavior of software in copying content.

As predicted, the speed of the Toshiba drives is almost twice that of the common Hitachi drives. Although the on-board write cache made testing throughput inexact, we had data transfers of 500 to 750KB/sec with the NSM 6000.

NSM did note that it had had problems with media, and now uses an extra coating on its DVD-RAM discs to enhance durability (and thus recordability). Plasmon also touts its pre-formatted discs as means of ensuring that the media won't cause problems in the future, so we will continue to monitor the network use of media to see if this is a general observation or isolated cases involving poor media.

PoiNTing in the right direction

Smart Storage's SmartStor has been the most notable management package on the PC side of networks. As a result, PoiNT is trying very hard to provide many features unavailable in its keen competitor. Like its competition, PoiNT offers a mountable file system that makes the NSM 6000 as easy to use as any local drive.

The PoiNT software can record to two or more CD-R discs for short runs of a title. This user-definable setting gives network users a capability they couldn't have on their own standalone systems.

The software also has native recording (premastering) clients for Windows, Apple Macintosh, and Unix. This is a major plus, since other packages require the use of a third-party mastering tool.

Most importantly, not only does PoiNT support these clients natively with a software tool, it also supports these platforms' native format as well. This is a critical difference from other approaches. Often, a PC-based tool can handle a hybrid disc with both an NFS and ISO9660 format, or a Mac/PC hybrid, but not a full native disc.

Not so with the PoiNT tool. Unix clients can generate pure NFS discs right from their desktops, just as Mac users can generate HFS discs. This makes the NSM 6000 much more useful in real-world environments where a mixed set of workstations is common. The PoiNT software isn't NSM-centric, even though it leverages that platform well. It also supports jukeboxes from Cygnet, JVC, Kodak, Pioneer, Plasmon, and the now-discontinued Sony line.


If installation of the PoiNT software is easy, licensing it is a bit complicated. There are separate base licenses for each model of NSM jukebox (based on slot count). There's a separate license for DVD-RAM support and for CD-R capability. The latter also requires separate licenses for more than one workstation to do recording. Finally, the virtual jukebox caching option is another license, this time based on the number of virtual slots you want to create with the cache (from 100 to 500 in 50-slot increments.)

The virtue of this licensing scheme is that you only have to pay for what you absolutely need. As the Modular series purchase you make may or may not include CD-R, you don't have to pay for that capability, for example.

As in the past, we highly recommend the NSM 6000 (and its siblings) for any industrial-strength, read-write network storage situation. The integration of the PoiNT software makes the system easier to use, especially for multi-platform environments. It is a joy to work with, and the fastest optical data retrieval system on the market today.

Pricing breakdown for fully configured NSM 6000 system

NSM 6000 $16,595
Toshiba DVD-RAM drives $6,600
4 Plextor 4x12 CD-R drives $6,000
4 Plextor 32X CD-ROM drives $3,000
Mail slot $250

Total Hardware Costs: $32,445

PoiNT Jukebox Manager for Windows NT v3.0 jukebox management
Software base license $6,900
PoiNT CD-R license $1,400 (4 drives, 1 client)
PoiNT DVD-RAM license $1,400 (4 drives, unl. clients)
PoiNThard disk caching license $1,100 (100 virtual slots)

Total License Costs: $10,800
Note: Additional client licenses are available for $150-250 per client depending on
which recording option you choose
Total System Costs: $43,245 (as tested)

Network ObServer columnist David Doering (dave@techvoice.com), an EMedia contributing editor, is also senior analyst with TechVoice Inc., an Orem, Utah-based consultancy.

Comments? Email us at letters@onlineinc.com.

Copyright 2000-2001 Online, Inc.
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