Off The Shelf And Into The Jukebox

When a company grows, so does its data. And when it grows faster than the storage capacity does, there's a problem.

A two-hour turnaround time for customer service is never good, especially if you're in the Internet trading business. TD Waterhouse Securities (New York) is the second largest discount brokerage firm in the world. Its rapid growth led it to seek a better way to store increasing amounts of data.

TD Waterhouse Securities' original system had a Plasmon 156-slot jukebox filled to capacity. Two hundred pieces of media sat on a shelf. When end users requested data that was stored on external media, a system administrator had to take a platter off the shelf, insert it into the jukebox, and re-catalog it. Then, the end user would have to re-issue the request.

Shelves Were Filling
Generating 4 GB of data a day meant TD Waterhouse was archiving more and more data to the shelf, and less data was immediately available through workstation retrieval from the jukebox. A Plasmon jukebox was driven by Allstor software. TD Waterhouse called Plasmon for a high-capacity solution with a small footprint because of physical space constrictions. Plasmon gave the lead to Micro Network Systems, Inc. (New York). As of January, 2000, Micro Network Systems, Inc. will be known as Digital Storage Solutions, Inc. to better describe the services it provides. The 15-employee integrator started out as a network provider, but four years ago it shifted its business activities to mainly imaging and storage.

Paul Greene, partner/technical director for Micro Network Systems, Inc. described the $100,000 installation at TD Waterhouse. Micro Network Systems, Inc. installed a Plasmon M500, 2.6-terabyte capacity jukebox run by Allstor Enterprise Library Manager software. The software presents the jukebox as a drive letter on the network. "From any workstation, Drive 'J' shows all the media cataloged under the jukebox," said Greene. "All the older media sitting on the shelf was imported into the new jukebox, filling it to 40% of its capacity," added Greene. "The remaining 60% takes care of daily archiving. The old jukebox is still in production, primarily for read-only requests, because it's filled."

Antonio Valeriano, TD Waterhouse's network engineer, confirmed the success of the installation. The learning curve for the new equipment was brief because TD Waterhouse was still running Allstor software on the new equipment. The only hitch in the process was getting the software and hardware to work together. The M500 had only been shipping for about a year prior to the installation. "When new hardware ships," said Greene, "the software has to play catch-up to the hardware."

The main issue between the hardware and software was getting the software to recognize the jukebox mail slot. "The media import couldn't be done through the mail slot," explained Greene, "The users had to open the jukebox from the front and do bulk importing of media." By calling in the technical support staff at Allstor, the problem was solved.

Reading More Data
TD Waterhouse now has a newer jukebox with a higher capacity drive — 5.2 GB rather than 2.6 GB — so more data gets under the read head. Unlike a single-sided CD that stores 650 MB, an optical disk is double-sided and stores 5.2 GB with 2.6 GB per side. "Naturally, the less disk-swapping and movement the disk does, the better the performance will be, and the longer the jukebox will last," stressed Greene. With the new jukebox, turnaround time for end user retrieval is almost immediate, and there is room for further expansion. In the near future, Greene anticipates another jukebox and drive upgrade for the existing 156-slot jukebox for TD Waterhouse Securities.

Ann DeDad