Oklahoma City Transitions From Paper-Based Document Storage To Electronic Document Management System


Oklahoma City's MIS department was given the mandate to develop a system that allowed the various city departments to have access to millions of documents online across its local area network (LAN). The city LAN involved approximately 1,400 desktops, which were primarily Windows 95 clients, and involved several buildings and numerous remote sites. A fiberoptic-based network, T1 connectivity, FDDI, and Ethernet networks were also involved.

A pilot project was initiated in 1993 in the City Clerks Office using Excalibur Technologies Inc.'s EFS™ document management solution on a Digital Equipment Corporation VMS platform. The pilot ran for three years and worked effectively.

In the interim, a major strategic decision was made to migrate from the VMS system to Windows NT. Optical storage was chosen as the media to store the online data for the following reasons:

  • Economically beneficial
  • Quick access time for information
  • Long, secure archive life
In 1997, a plan was developed to initiate the migration of various city departments to the new document management system. Two departments were chosen to implement the Excalibur EFS™ system. Projects were initiated to put both the Water Department and the Department of Airports online for document management. Further plans are to implement the system city-wide are underway.

The Challenge

Water Department
One of the largest of the city of Oklahoma City Departments, the Water Group required that all service orders/work orders and administrative documents be placed on an accessible and permanent system. The integrity of the data and the ease in which the Water Group searched and retrieved these documents were critical to the success of the "claims resolution" process. Initial data storage requirements were to be at least 150 GB in a very short period. Old documents, unless deemed critical, would be archived in the conventional manner and not placed on the new system.

Department of Airports
This remote site was responsible for a variety of activities that generated considerable record keeping. Large financial/accounting and leasing activities related to airport activities constituted the bulk of the document storage requirement. A system was required to store and manage and retrieve on demand these documents. Most of the storage requirements would be based on new requirements, but some strategically important historical data would be scanned and inputted into the system.

The Players

This program was supervised and directed by Oklahoma City MIS Director, Kerry Wagnon. The Project Leader, Stan Reichert, was directly responsible for the implementation of the system and supported Wagnon.

A KOM imaging reseller, Sunbelt Data systems, was responsible for supplying the HP Optical Jukeboxes and the KOM jukebox management software. Sunbelt, founded in 1981, is a systems integrator providing high-end network and storage solutions to its clients in the government and commercial arena. Sunbelt was involved in supplying the City of Oklahoma with the HP NetServers 6/200 LX PRO SMP during the city's NT migration program.

Hewlett-Packard Storage Systems Division is part of the multinational Hewlett-Packard Company, whose Optical Jukebox product line has set the storage industry standard for overall market share.

KOM Inc. is a software developer whose mass storage and enterprise-wide information management solutions are recommended by the industry's leading optical storage manufacturers (including HP).

The Solution

Water Department
An HP 160FX Jukebox (166 GB) was used with KOM OptiStorm™ software to manage the storage requirements for Excalibur's EFS™ software. The HP jukebox was configured with 4 multifunction drives and 76 shelves. The first step was to configure the HP160FX to the HP NetServer running Windows NT4.0, Service Pack 3, via a standard SCSI connection using a standard SCSI cable and an Adaptec 2940 controller card. To complete the configuration, the KOM OptiStorm™ software, which has an easy to install, self-configuring Windows GUI was used.

The critical requirements for the optical storage system to perform to the City specifications were:

  • The jukebox must appear as a drive letter for the Excalibur EFS™ document management system.
  • Data must be written to the platters using unmodified Native File System (NTFS) structures. Proprietary file systems were not acceptable.
  • An intelligent, staged, secondary caching system was required to increase the I/O performance of the jukebox to "near-magnetic" performance levels for commonly used files.
Writes were cached to a 9 GB SCSI hard drive and transparently migrated to the jukebox after either a high watermark had been reached (a percentage of write cache used on the hard drive) or at the pre-determined time period during the day. If the cache drive is large enough to hold one day of updates and the high water mark is not reached, then the data migration to the jukebox can be scheduled for off-peak periods. Both of these options are configurable by the System Administrator and occur transparently to the users.

"KOM Software provided a transparent connection between the server and the optical jukebox."
All read requests are processed through the cache drive. If the requested data is not found on the cache drive, the OptiStorm™ software will automatically find the data in the jukebox. The optical platter with the data is loaded into one of the four drives and the data transferred to the cache disk.

"Most recently accessed data was maintained on the cache drive for immediate retrieval"
In summary, OptiStorm™ software was the only product available to deliver the transparent connectivity required for the HP NetServer and the optical jukebox. With the cache drive, the jukebox was able to provide quick access to all online documentation sourced through the Excalibur search and retrieval system.

Department of Airports
Again, the critical requirements for the optical storage system to perform to the city specifications were similar to those of the Water Department, with the exception that this site was remote and network access was required.

The Lessons Learned
The importance of planning is critical to the successful implementation of a network-wide information management system. The support provided by software vendors is critical to this process. "We enjoyed working with KOM. The personal touch during the critical installation stage was very professional, enthusiastic and very rare these days," comments Victor Harris, president, Sunbelt Data Systems.

The successful installation demonstrates that optical storage systems can be integrated with document management systems to provide a fast, yet economical solution. Jukeboxes may not provide the same access speed as a RAID disk storage sub-system, but properly configured, optical storage can provide acceptable performance and save money for the user. The use of a tape solution (DAT or DLT), while an economical solution, would not provide the online access required by the city of Oklahoma City.

Richard Game, VP Sales & Marketing for KOM Inc.