Every day, Intelligence Processing Systems Limited (iPSL) is responsible for clearing around 75% of the cheques issued in the UK, processing over 13 million items worth over £5 billion. iPSL was formed in December 2000 as a joint venture between Unisys, Barclays Bank PLC, Lloyds TSB and HSBC.
iPSL enables its financial services clients to concentrate more on their key strategic business objectives and on services to their end users. As well as cheque clearance, iPSL also provides other outsourced services to the financial services market, including remittance and lockbox services, research and adjustment and imaging services. That, says Mike Pacitto, head of technology and service development at iPSL, involves managing huge amounts of data that must be retained for extended periods of time. “Much of the information we hold must be kept on a client’s behalf for up to 10 years. We’ve calculated that could involve as much as 900 terabytes of data,” he says.
That means that iPSL has to be smart about the storage systems that it deploys for different categories of data, according to Pacitto: “It goes without saying that we can’t possibly store it all on disk – that would be too expensive.”
“The challenge for us is to store the data on the most appropriate and cost-effective media. The selection criteria for the media is governed by the importance of the data, its criticality to the business function that it supports and the service levels required for access and retrieval,” he says.
iPSL holds both the data printed on cheques and JPEG images of cheques. “Freshly created data is stored on very resilient and highly available disk. As the data ages, this is either migrated to disk tiers which have a lower read/write ability and are less expensive, or to tape, where it is more cost-effective to hold and retrieve the data – the service levels for accessing this data are lower, so disk is not required,” says Pacitto.
Tape is used extensively to meet the majority of iPSL’s storage needs. Image data, for example, is archived to 9940 tape cartridges. “We use 9940 for archiving our image data due to its superior capacity and duty cycles compared to other cartridge offerings,” explains Pacitto.
“By storing data in this tiered fashion we are able to provide a variety of services to our clients knowing that we can hold or move the data to the most appropriate tier depending on the service required,” he says.
Back-up, meanwhile, also exploits tape technology. “In this case, we chose LTO [linear tape open] technology for our back-ups, again for its capacity, and, as the need to retrieve this data will be small, the duty cycle is not that important. LTO drives and media are much cheaper than 9940 and that is the reason we adopt two different types of media,” Pacitto explains.
All this data is stored in an SL8500 automated tape library from StorageTek. iPSL can be confident that this system will meet its demands for some time to come: the system scales from 1,448 to 300,000 slots and up to 2,048 tape drives in order to accommodate years of data volume growth.
iPSL purchased this system to replace existing StorageTek L700 libraries, explains Pacitto. “The projected number of L700 tape libraries we would have needed for our archiving, retrieval and back-up requirements was 10 in each of our main data centres in Northampton and Bootle. Using the SL8500, we are able to install just one library at each site and scale up the number of slots and drives as necessary,” he says.
Not only has implementing a single, scaleable tape system enabled iPSL to reduce its expected capital outlay by around £1 million, but it has also minimised maintenance and support costs. “In addition, it will reduce our floorspace and environmental requirements with much more flexibility to scale up and out where required with minimal upheaval,” says Pacitto.
South Yorkshire Police
In the mind of Roy France, IT manager for South Yorkshire Police, there is no doubt that ILM is an imperative rather than a marketing term for his organisation at least. “Everything the force does is concentrated on the fast, continual retrieval of information,” says France, “and we need to be certain that information is always available, year after year.”
The South Yorkshire force polices the main conurbations of Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham – an area that contains some 1.3 million citizens. In recent years, that work has relied increasingly on electronic information, held in a wide variety of systems.
Recorded crime, for example, is captured, analysed, disseminated and shared electronically; compliance legislation demands that information be stored for longer periods; and soon, electronic imaging for documents, voice recordings and vehicle number plate recognition will become the standard.
“We are continually tasked to deliver best value information technology,” says France. “It therefore makes sense to move older information to different online storage media that still provides the right levels of protection, replication and recovery at the lowest possible cost,” he says.
A cornerstone of South Yorkshire Police’s ILM strategy is a dual site disaster recovery programme.
The force has deployed two EMC Symmetrix 8430 systems, connected by Fibre Channel switches to a heterogeneous server environment. Back-up is provided by EMC Legato NetWorker.
The environment runs critical applications from crime management and operational intelligence applications to packaged software from Oracle for financial accounting and human resources, and replicates the data between systems at separate sites in Sheffield.
In addition, network attached storage (NAS) devices from EMC are used to back up the end user’s work – a boon to the IT department, which itself uses NAS storage for its Oracle 9i Linux development project. “Our back-ups are now two hours quicker than before,”says France.
To complete the ILM approach, South Yorkshire Police is deploying an EMC Centera content addressed storage (CAS) system in order to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, among other mandates.
The force will use the Centera system for holding the growing volume of records that need to be ‘frozen’ and stored for reference purposes. It will also store emails that will be automatically collected, organised, retained and retrieved via the EMC EmailXtender software.
“By reducing unscheduled system downtime, streamlining the cost of storage management and maintenance, reducing server investment and accelerating application testing and development, South Yorkshire Police is on track to save £1.1 million between 2001 and 2006,” reports France.
In 1993, doctors Neil Rotherham and Jonathan Engler set up ClinPhone, a company that manages, hosts and delivers clinical trial data used in the development and testing of pharmaceutical products – from patient details and test results to drug shipment tracking applications — to its clients, which include some of the world’s best-known pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
To date, ClinPhone has supported around 1,242 clinical trials conducted in over 80 countries and 71 languages, creating a need for robust and manageable storage that will meet regulations imposed by the healthcare industry, says Daljit Cheema, chief technology officer at ClinPhone.
“At any one time, we have 350 projects underway for our clients and that data must be kept throughout the course of a clinical trial — generally anywhere between six months and a few years. That data is referenced 24×7 by our clients and must be stored on high-availability disk,” he explains.
“Once a trial has finished, we are obliged to keep data for up to 15 years,” he says. Most frequently that is stored on optical disk, either on a jukebox or in a secure offsite facility provided by storage management specialists Iron Mountain.
Until recently, however, Cheema managed a heterogenous IT environment that included numerous servers, each with their own direct-attached storage and their own back-up system. “We needed to consolidate systems and consolidate tasks,” says Cheema.
That has prompted an overhaul of Clinphone’s scattered storage environment to a more virtualised one, using IBM technology. Primary disk is provided by IBM TotalStorage machines and backed up to tape. Real-time replication is carried out via a private fibre connection to a second, remote site. The whole system, meanwhile, is managed from IBM’s TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller, which treats the storage environment as a logical whole and automates data replication and back-up processes. “This set-up will provide us with the flexibility and control that we will need for many years to come,” says Cheema.