BACKGROUND: Based in Needham, Massachusetts, Brooktrout Technology Inc. provides enabling technologies for telecommunication companies to deliver voice and data solutions to their customers. Brooktrout's hardware and software for enhanced fax, voice, data, and integrated fax and voice applications have captured a significant share of the market both domestically and abroad.

PLATFORMS: Brooktrout runs its entire financial system, including order entry, on a Hewlett-Packard 9000 K450 server running HP-UX 10.20. This server runs on an ethernet network.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Brooktrout Technology dramatically increased the I/O performance of its financial database server without exceeding the budget, without making software changes and with the confidence the solution would work. Routine transactions and certain jobs now run from 24 to 33 times faster than before. This increased productivity happened by replacing the storage device on the HP server with a Winchester Systems' FlashDISK. It has 12, nine-gigabyte disk drives in RAID 1+0 mode with 128MB on-board cache memory. In January 1997, Brooktrout began adding new Oracle database applications to the HP server. By July 1997, the number of applications on the server had risen; and the sophistication of those applications and the number of users relying on them increased as well. However, performance had been going downhill. By July 1998, response time for several batch jobs finally became intolerable, and users throughout the company were complaining. Even simple transactions took up to four minutes to process. This situation also caused other jobs on this server to back up and require more time to run.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: FlashDISK's performance has really speeded up the applications of the server. After tuning the system, response time for the printing of processing packing slips went from four minutes to seven seconds ­ a time saving of more than 97 percent. A purchasing application that had slowed down to five minutes to print a purchase order got speeded up to six seconds ­ a time saving of 98 percent and an astonishing 50 times faster. Other requests improved comparably. The long delays in getting other jobs done disappeared.

STRENGTHS: FlashDISK's strong performance comes from the speed delivered by the on-board caching system. It consists of a RAID disk controller with up to 128MB of intelligent, on-board cache memory. Caching disk reads and writes in electronic memory allows FlashDISK to deliver data in microseconds, which is 1,000 times faster than the slow millisecond, mechanical speed of disk drives. For example, FlashDISK offers up to 40 times the disk access speed of a typical SCSI disk and averages about 250 I/Os per second.

WEAKNESSSES: Since Winchester Systems was not as well known as other disk storage vendors, Brooktrout proceeded conservatively with a 30-day trial. Files from the older disk system were moved to the FlashDISK a few at a time. Both the FlaskDISK and the original system operated in tandem. Once all of the files were moved to the FlashDISK and the original system removed, then Brooktrout could see the dramatic differences between the two systems.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The database consulting firm concluded that Brooktrout had exceeded it hardware's capabilities. Three factors caused the bottlenecks: not enough spindles on the disk storage system, not enough channels and not enough good actual performance from the disk. The firm recommended buying a higher performance disk system. After learning that Winchester Systems' high-performance FlashDISK cost $29,000, Brooktrout brought one in for a 30-day free trial.

DELIVERABLES: FlashDISK has allowed Brooktrout to recapture dozens of hours per week in previously wasted employee productivity. The dollar value of this time repaid the purchase price of the FlashDISK system within weeks.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The support from Winchester Systems has been very good. However, the system reliability speaks for itself. It has run almost perfectly.

DOCUMENTATION: FlaskDISK's documentation is complete and easy to use.

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