High-Speed Storage Solutions Being Used For Documents

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Credit unions are turning to high-speed storage.

Tinker FCU took the storage path-less-traveled during a conversion to the Episys data processing solution last spring, convincing Symitar to help install a high-speed Storage Area Network (SAN) to store document images, according to Steve Mooney, assistant vice president, Information Services Operations and Telecommunications at the $1.4-billion CU.

"The Symitar engineers were excited about the SAN solution and agreed it was the way to go," said Mooney.

SANs are coming of age. They're faster. They're more reliable. And for Tinker, SANs are also cheaper than conventional "jukebox" architecture, said Mooney.

One Recommendation

Tinker isn't alone. Several Symitar clients are relying on SANs for imaging solutions, according to Kathy Hooker Burress, president of the CU industry's No. 1 core system vendor. Yet Symitar isn't pushing other CUs to switch to SANs, she said.

"The final configuration of an imaging system often depends on the credit union's budget, IT experience, retention policies, and knowledge to manage and maintain SAN devices," said Hooker. "However, to achieve the requirements of durability, stability and inalterability, San Diego-based Symitar recommends using a UDO optical jukebox. Additionally, the jukebox is often the more affordable solution both from hardware and administrative standpoints."

Jukeboxes reside on the network and use mechanical devices to access storage media. A SAN, on the other hand, is independent of the network and accelerates data transfers using a technology known as fiber channel.

"In my experience, jukeboxes can be horrid," Mooney said. "For the purpose of speed and performance, I wanted to use a SAN instead. We took our adoption to another level when we created a method of executing our tape backup and restore technology within the SAN architecture." This allows for backups and restores of the document imaging system to be done across a fiber backbone, never touching the local-area network. "And we did it for less than the cost of a jukebox," Mooney added.

Small credit unions may run just fine using their LANs to access their images, said Mooney. "But for companies with large amounts of data as well as large numbers of images, you don't want to be dealing with jukeboxes," Mooney said.

"You will be hard pressed to find an Information Systems manager with an in-depth technical background supporting jukebox technology over that of SAN," he continued. "It simply does not make sense in today's environments."

The $6-million Episys conversion was the catalyst for a series of additional infrastructure changes, Mooney said.

Blade Servers

For example, the SAN also stores data from Tinker's new blade servers, where core application systems reside. The blade servers consolidate memory, processors and network connections. The blade is therefore smaller, upgrades more easily and uses power more efficiently than traditional servers.

Tinker Federal Credit Union fired up its phone connection, as well. The credit union not only had to accommodate storage for the document imaging and core systems but had to ensure that employees could quickly access the system itself.

In addition, the credit union is considering replacing its analog telephony with an enterprise-wide Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system.

A T1 connection answered the call for the VoIP, document imaging, Episys and application systems, Mooney said.

Tinker also replaced old routers and switches instead of refurbishing them. "You can nickel and dime your network, but if you want 99.9% uptime, you can't do it on a refurbed network," he said.

Credit unions can get waylaid during conversions trying to meet unreasonable vendor deadlines, said Mooney.

"The conversion was not the largest project I had going at the time," he told The Credit Union Journal. "As an operations manager, my biggest job is to keep the credit union running. It's critical that vendors comply with our timelines."

CUJ Resources

For info on this story:

* Tinker FCU at www.tinkerfcu.org

* Symitar at www.symitar.com

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