REVIEWER: Mitchell Votow, senior product manger for Advanced Financial Solutions.

BACKGROUND: Advanced Financial Solutions (AFS) is a leading provider of image-based processing, payment and transaction software for companies in banking, retail, energy, insurance, transportation, credit and government operations. All AFS image-based check-processing solutions are designed from the ground up with the functionality that financial institutions and remittance processing departments need for operating in a high- capacity, transaction-based environment.

PLATFORMS: BladeStore is a hardware product. The AFS applications are based on a Microsoft Platform.

PROBLEM SOLVED: For several development projects at AFS, we were looking for an inexpensive storage set that would allow us to move and create volumes on the fly. Each of the multiple projects involves images of financial documents, and these projects can change from week to week. StorageTek's BladeStore is highly scalable and has a very small footprint compared to other storage media. It is easy for my team to go in and "chop up" the data sets. You can put more than 100 terabytes in a single rack with BladeStore; with any other media, the size and cost would be huge.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: BladeStore is functioning very well at AFS. The company is considering an ASP business model, and BladeStore's retrieval and price performance would be an excellent foundation for that plan.

STRENGTHS: BladeStore's scalability is a major strength in terms of row storage capacity, but also in terms of interface capacity. You can connect as many as 64 hosts to BladeStore in a SAN. The speed and storage volume that you get for the price are excellent.

WEAKNESSES: The high capacity of BladeStore is oriented toward high-volume applications; therefore, some smaller organizations may not be able to take advantage of the value. In addition, the current release of BladeStore does not include WORM (write once, ready many) technology for data security. We would like to see this added in the next release.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The amount of storage and access speed that you get for the price is excellent. BladeStore's image retrieval time performance is substantially better than technologies in standard use. BladeStore fits seamlessly into a SAN fabric, a significant advantage over other media.

DELIVERABLES: Data storage and retrieval (image transaction processing).

VENDOR SUPPORT: We felt StorageTek supported us very well. They answered all of our questions. If they couldn't answer us immediately, they got back to us. A StorageTek regional technical support person visited our site with some colleagues and gave very valuable assistance to our team, and he continued to check in regularly.

DOCUMENTATION: My team didn't need the documentation much because of our prior experience with the StorageTek D178 and StorageTek SANtriscity Software. There is a lot of information in the documentation, but I can't say you would rely on it alone; for us, StorageTek Tech Support also provided assistance.

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