The objective of this study is to determine the right cycle management policy to service periodic soft real-time disk retrieval. Cycle-based disk scheduling provides an effective way of exploiting the disk bandwidth and meeting the soft real-time requirements of individual I/O requests. It is widely used in real-time retrieval of multimedia data blocks. Interestingly, the issue of cycle management with respect to dynamically changing workloads has not been receiving proper attention despite its significant engineering implications on the system behavior. When cycle length remains constant regardless of varying I/O workload intensity.. it may cause under-utilization of disk bandwidth capacity or unnecessarily long service startup latency. In this work, we present a novel cycle management policy which dynamically adapts to the varying workload. We develop pre-buffering policy which makes the adaptive cycle management policy robust against starvation. The proposed approach elaborately determines the cycle length and the respective buffer size for pre-buffering. Performance study reveals a number of valuable observations. Adaptive cycle length management with incremental pre-buffering exhibits superior performance to the other cycle management policies in startup latency, jitter and buffer requirement. It is found that servicing low playback rate contents such as video contents for 3G cellular network requires rather different treatment in disk subsystem capacity planning and call admission criteria because relatively significant fraction of I/O latency is taken up by plain disk overhead. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.