CATEGORY: Storage/Hardware

REVIEWER: Lee Pittman, conversion manager for Bell & Howell Company.

BACKGROUND: Bell & Howell Company is a leading information solutions and services provider to a select range of industries around the world. In each of the core businesses, information is transformed through software and services, helping customers operate more effectively and efficiently. The imaging solutions department converts legacy or foreign data formats into a uniform format that can be used by a client's current application. Typically jobs come from mergers, acquisitions, software program upgrades or upgrades to newer optical media for storage. Companies want information merged into one document imaging system but can't afford to spend the time necessary to make the conversion or don't have the storage capacity needed to handle the task. Information is converted from digital to digital, media to media, data to data and data to digital.

PLATFORMS: The Raidtec FlexArray HI 12 is directly attached to a Compaq ProLiant 3000 with dual 500 MHz processors and 1GB RAM running Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Bell & Howell investigated many hardware and software options before starting the imaging solutions department. Originally an SSI system was chosen because of the reliability. About a year ago, job sizes increased, and the SSI system couldn't handle the conversions in a timely manor.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Ultra2 LVD SCSI Raidtec FlexArray is configured with 12 50GB high-speed drives running RAID 5. The unit stripes the 12 drives together with parity, eliminating system downtime and lost data due to drive failure. The Raidtec unit is capable of holding 550MB of information in its current configuration. Information to be transformed is staged on the Raidtec FlexArray unit, modified to fit a desired file format and burned onto the client's choice of media. The information is verified on the new media and then purged from the Raidtec unit, allowing additional information to be staged.

STRENGTHS: The Raidtec FlexArray unit features 12 hot swap drive bays, dual independent hot swap power supplies, six hot swap fans and a compact form factor ­ making it one of the most versatile, scalable and reliable storage arrays available. The hot swap functionality eliminates lost revenue due to system downtime and increases storage space and performance over the SSI system. The UltraRAID HI controller at the heart of the subsystem is easily attached to virtually any SCSI host computer with no special device drivers or software required, and the GUI interface makes setup and administration simple.

WEAKNESSES: The performance advantage provided by the FlexArray SCSI RAID unit over the SSI system is good, but a faster transfer rate would be better. Data transfer rates vary depending on the application. With job sizes reaching multiple terabytes, faster transfer rates would decrease lag time due to data copying. The faster the data is transferred and burned, the faster the job can be
completed.

SELECTION CRITERIA: About one year after the initial decision to go with the SSI system, Bell & Howell determined that a higher performance solution to handle big jobs was needed. After evaluating different types of technology that would fill the requirements, it was determined that RAID units would be the best option. After investigating numerous RAID systems, Raidtec was chosen because of their low-cost, high-performance units.

DELIVERABLES: Bell & Howell currently supports more than 30 different file formats including FileNet, Macrosoft, Treev, Keyfile, ProAccess, BancTech, ADIC and File Solutions. Data conversions can be saved on Diskette, CD-ROM, DVD, Zip, Jazz, Bernoulli Cartridge, 5', 12' and 14' optical drives and nine different types of backup tape.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Raditec helped with the initial set up of the FlexArray unit. Additional support has not been needed often, but when needed Raidtec has been very responsive. Technical support is able to guide Bell & Howell personnel through any adjustments on the phone. Problems are quickly corrected allowing work to continue.

DOCUMENTATION: Raidtec documentation is thorough and easily understood. It allows Bell & Howell's technical staff to fix small problems and service or adjust the FlexArray unit without taking the time to call customer support.

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