PLATFORMS: High-speed data movement between Acxiom's IBM mainframes and Digital Alpha Servers (4100) is accomplished with the Bus-Tech DataBlaster 2 using a single ESCON channel- attachment and dual Ultra-Wide SCSI connections.

BACKGROUND: One of the main charters of Acxiom Corporation is to help Fortune 500 clients manage, and optimally leverage, the invaluable information buried inside their mission- critical databases. Acxiom provides full-function data warehouse, direct marketing and data services to clients through an extensive range of data management, database mining and mailing list related services.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Part of Acxiom's service requires us to go "mining" through client databases looking for buried, but highly pertinent, marketing information. Before we implemented DataBlaster technology to connect highly scalable parallel processors to our mainframes, it was difficult to meet some customer requirements due to the time and cost required to scan very large databases. Initially with DataBlaster 1 and now with the DataBlaster 2, we are able to run CPU-intensive queries on relatively low cost servers as much as five times faster than we did on mainframes, while maintaining the same mainframe pre- and post-processing. This is possible due to the high-speed, low-overhead connection provided by DataBlaster 2 between the mainframe and the servers. Using DataBlaster 2, we can move data from the IBM mainframe to the Alpha Server across a single ESCON-to-SCSI interface at a sustained transfer rate that has so far been limited only by the mainframe's ability to supply the data. We have been able to dramatically improve speed and reduce costs of highly CPU- intensive data query jobs without having to spend a lot of additional money on new hardware. In one case, we were able to do a single query of a database in eight hours compared to running five queries taking eight hours each on 20 percent of the database over five nights.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: DataBlaster 2 was designed to support high-speed gigabytes-per-minute data movement applications such as database load and bulk data transfer. Utilizing the existing high bandwidth interfaces of our enterprise systems, the DataBlaster 2 provides a separate mainframe channel-to-SCSI "data highway" and enables the movement of data independent of our corporate network.

STRENGTHS: Simplicity, reliability and performance are the key strengths of DataBlaster 2. Applications use the "virtual tape" mode providing optimum throughput with no network protocol overhead. Another strength of this approach was that the parallel processor was implemented without having to reengineer the entire process. DataBlaster 2 enabled us to insert the parallel Alpha Servers into the process where they gave the greatest benefit. Users saw vastly improved performance without changing the way they worked with the data. A final advantage of DataBlaster 2 is the ability to configure it to support multiple servers and mainframes, which reduces cost and improves manageability, since fewer devices are required to support our work.

WEAKNESSES: Although the DataBlaster 2 supports ESCON and Fast/Wide SCSI connections, Fibre Channel connections are not yet supported.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The key challenge facing Acxiom was finding an ultra-fast, highly reliable, mission-critical data transfer mechanism to rapidly transfer data between the parallel processor systems and an IBM mainframe. We found exactly what we were looking for in the DataBlaster 2 IBM-channel-to-SCSI data transfer system.

DELIVERABLES: The DataBlaster 2 provides standard high bandwidth connectivity interfaces such as IBM's mainframe ESCON (17.5 MBps) channel and two Ultra Wide SCSI (40 MBps) connections to Digital Alpha 4100 servers providing high-speed, low mainframe overhead throughput capability.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Bus-Tech demonstrated the viability of the DataBlaster 2 and has provided excellent support.

DOCUMENTATION: All DataBlaster 2 documentation is available on-line.

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