Mass-Storage Solutions

Ohio Simplifies Storage Management

Like many state and local governments, Ohio runs a combination of mainframe and Unix-based client/server applications. It is also striving to centralize information technology and simplify systems and storage management. That's why the state's Department of Transportation five years ago took a gamble on then-upstart EMC Corp. to supply it with a new storage platform, first for the mainframe and later for both mainframe and Unix-based data on the same device.

Today, the state uses EMC's Symmetrix Direct-Access Storage Devices (DASD) at Ohio's DOT and its Department of Administrative Services. "The ability to centrally manage storage and data recovery is a huge benefit to any organization that wants an enterprisewide view of its data and IT operations," said Mike Carroll, systems analyst for the Ohio Department of Administrative Services who was formerly with the Ohio DOT.

Because Symmetrix stores mainframe and Unix data, customers gain the flexibility of adding or changing applications or operating systems without affecting backup and recovery. "If we decide to migrate Lotus [Development Corp.'s] Domino, for example, from Unix to OS/390-which is a current possibility-we can still use the same EMC disk storage system behind it," Carroll said.

"We are seeing more and more state and local governments taking advantage of our technology to help them reach programmatic goals, such as providing efficient government services, and doing more with less resources," said Peter McGeoch, manager of state and local operations for EMC, Hopkinton, Mass.

Ohio's DOT developed a plan three years ago to migrate to client/server computing, which emcompasses mainframe, Unix and Microsoft Corp. Windows environments. Back then, the DOT purchased four IBM Corp. AIX SP servers, but the department opted to stick with EMC for a storage subsystem that combined mainframe data and Unix-based Sybase Inc. data warehouse information on the same platform. The Ohio DOT uses an EMC Symmetrix 5700 DASD subsystem and stores half a terabyte of data.

Meanwhile, Carroll moved to the Department of Administrative Services earlier this year. The department's mission is to provide IT services to state agencies that want it. In May the department installed two IBM AIX SP servers and an EMC Symmetrix 5700 platform, which sits on about 6.5 terabytes of data storage. The department uses legacy mainframe applications as well as an Oracle Corp. database, Tivoli Systems Inc. systems management products, Lotus Domino and centralized firewall services. "We chose EMC's Symmetrix again because it's highly reliable and can be extended to incorporate Unix as well as mainframe data," he said.

Carroll said the only drawback of working with the EMC drives is the higher initial cost. That's largely because mainframe DASD typically is more expensive than open-systems DASD. But, he added, the initial purchase cost is not substantial when compared to the money saved by simplifying ongoing storage management. Carroll declined to specify the cost of the state's EMC subsystems, but he did say all disk storage is funded through a charge-back system, which enables the agency to buy storage based on growth needs rather than current budgets.

Kern County Hot for COLD Storage

Kern County, Calif., estimates that its cost of processing and storing paper documents exceeds $100,000 per year. But via laser fiche and optical disk storage, it is striving to eliminate tons of paper, including daily financial reports, marriage licenses, loyalty oaths, purchase orders and other documents stored or processed through its auditor-controller's office.

The office has adopted an optical storage platform to reduce paper stored in filing cabinets and make that data easily available to users authorized by the county's financial processing branch. Officials hope the Computer Output to Laser Disk (COLD) system, which cost $42,000 to implement, could bring taxpayers a return on investment in less than six months.

In 1996 the county was searching for an imaging solution to store images of marriage certificates. Those documents are now stored on a laser fiche system from CompuLink. "But during our research, we stumbled upon the benefits of COLD storage processing," said Tom Van Matre, financial systems coordinator for the auditor-controller's office.

COLD storage subsystems provide near-line optical disk archiving and retrieval. In other words, these storage subsystems eliminate the need for paper documents, file cabinets or microfilm. Instead, COLD storage systems provide users with simultaneous online access to optical archives from any workstation on a network. Optical disk storage is considered among the most cost-effective storage media available.

Kern County chose DataView, a COLD storage product from MultiProcess Computer Corp., based in Windham, N.H. The county has a 40G storage system that includes an optical disk drive and a jukebox to store the 51/2-inch write-once, read-many cartridges.

"Users can store data for up to 100 million pages of paper in less than 1 cubic foot, for only 7 cents per thousand pages," said Jay McCaig, account manager for MultiProcess.

Van Matre sees the storage subsystem as a big time-saver. One county employee recently reconciled a monthly financial statement by searching the system for a missing amount and was directed to that information immediately. "It normally would take several minutes to thumb through dozens of documents to find a missing number like that," Van Matre said.

In addition, it takes two days per month to sort and distribute monthly Financial Management System (FMS) reports. But via the DataView system, the auditor-controller's office makes even daily FMS reports available at 5 a.m., following the completion of nightly mainframe batch processing. There are an estimated 4,000 PC users who have access to the data in those reports. Before the system was put in place, in January 1997 the auditor-controller's office would get calls every day from different departments for information in financial reports that only the auditor's office would receive. "Now users in every department can check financial data, on their own, as needed," Van Matre said.For the fiscal year ended June 30, for example, Kern County employees had one of two choices: They could look up the year's annual financial results online July 1, or they could wait up to four weeks for a printed copy to be distributed to each office. "Ultimately the goal is to drop the annual printing of those 250,000 pages and save both money and trees," Van Matre said.

Even so, officials maintain, county users must become accustomed to viewing financial reports online rather than on paper. And the system must be made available to outlying county government offices-a task due to be completed within a year.

Essex County, Mass., Network Attaches Storage to Internet

If you're curious to know who bought Cotton Mather's house in Salem, Mass., the source for such information is the Essex County Registry of Deeds, which contains property information dating back to 1639. To check on a record that old, you would have to visit in person and look up the information the old-fashioned way. But for more recent records, interested people can simply point their World Wide Web browsers to, thanks in part to a new Unisys Corp. PrimeStor NAS2000-D10 network-attached storage Redundant Array of Independent Disks system that can provide speedy access to huge amounts of data.

The county has seven years of property images and index information dating back twice as long, said Michael T. Miles, assistant registrar of deeds. Recently, the office decided its was time to retire a legacy Unisys A6 computer system, which stored records on a slow Unisys Info Image optical storage device. The records include information on the buyer/seller, date of sale, description, address, plan of land, sale price and mortgage amount.

"Putting our records on the Web will make it easier than ever for people to find title documents," said John L. O'Brien, registrar of deeds. "The Unisys PrimeStor NAS2000 provides us with the high-speed, reliable and low-cost storage we need to make our records available on the Internet."

The NAS2000 has 270G of disk space installed, which holds 8 million records, Miles said. To switch to a Windows NT-based system, the registry converted recent existing records to an Oracle database. Meanwhile, the office staff of 49 workers adds 800 new records each day.

The Unisys D10 includes a pair of servers, each using a 200 MHz Pentium Pro processor, according to Reg Harman, marketing manager at Unisys. New processors, such as the much-hyped new Xenon Pentium II chips really have little or no advantage over the older Pentium Pro in file service duties, he said. "If you are doing standard file services, you don't have to pay for all that juice," he said.

Before the office started automating in 1976, the staff of 75 people recorded 250 documents per day, Miles said. "There is no question that automation has saved us tons of money," he said. The new system was bought through a contract worth $300,000 over three years, but the primary benefit is for people outside the office, so the return on investment is hard to quantify.

"We view it as cost-avoidance for the public," he said. "We have already recorded the information. It was a small cost to make it available worldwide, for free." People buying and selling property in the county should save money because their lawyers don't have to send a person to the registry for title information.

"If you have to come from the other side of the county, you are going to spend an hour coming here and parking," he said. "Anything we can do to reduce that is a public service."

Unisys said it has a return on investment analysis spreadsheet that it can use to review interested customers' potential purchase of a NAS2000 to show the length of time needed to recover the purchase cost. "We are seeing a quick return on investment because of the high availability of the box," Harman said. "If you have a lot of users, that down time cost goes up pretty quickly," he said.

The NAS2000 bolsters its reliability with redundant processors, network interface cards and disk drives. "It delivers high availability with no single point of failure," Harman said.

The NAS2000 runs on Windows NT, but it can also serve Unix, File Transfer Protocol and Hypertext Transport Protocol files. When converting from a legacy system to Windows NT, there is time-consuming migration work when converting old databases and applications to the new system. But if customers want to add a NAS2000 to an existing Windows NT network, installation is a simple matter that takes less than an hour," Harman said.

Other localities are interested in Essex's online title information server, according to Miles. "People call us from all over the world who would like to come see this stuff," he said.

But the combination of the high-speed, high-reliability storage array with a Web server has wider potential applications, Harman said. "This style of application has great appeal for people who not only have deed applications but for any kind of Web pages."

Essex County will need to add NAS2000 servers when it puts its entire 359 years of property records online. The county hopes to get a federal grant to make its 17th-century records available online so historians don't have to travel to Massachusetts to investigate whether witnesses against witches received their property after they were burned.

Dan Carney is a free-lance writer based in Herndon, Va. He can be reached at [email protected]


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