Dutch data insurance

International financial organisation Fortis talks to James Rogers about how it manages its growing mountain of data

International financial organisation Fortis talks to James Rogers about how it manages its growing mountain of data

With more than 200 member companies and over 60,000 employees worldwide, the Fortis Group is very much an international company. Unsurprisingly for such a massive organisation, the amount of data produced by the company is growing rapidly. Kees Eskes, ICT project manager at Fortis Bank Netherlands explains: 'Managing the growing amount of data is one of the largest challenges that we face at the moment, and this is especially the case in the NT environment. For example, the amount of data produced on NT at our headquarters is growing by 75 per cent a year.'

As far as technology is concerned, Fortis in the Netherlands already has something of an IBM heritage. For the last year and a half the company has been using ADSM 3.1 running on Network Storage Manager at the Amev-site (one of the insurance companies of Fortis) in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Furthermore, Fortis is now implementing Tivoli Storage Manager at one of the Fortis Bank headquarters in Amsterdam. Eskes explains: 'We chose Tivoli Storage Manager for several reasons although we did a project for selecting a tool, back in 1997, and, when we made a shortlist of products, we chose ADSM.'

This formed the basis of the distributed storage programme on the Utrecht site, which is now producing almost two terabytes of data. According to Eskes, this figure is growing fast, with the Amsterdam site now producing 500 Gigabytes of data. As well as coping with a data explosion, Fortis also needed a product that would work across a range of different platforms. This is particularly important as the Utrecht installation uses Novell Netware, NT, OS/2 and AIX. Eskes says: 'If you bear in mind that the Amsterdam site also uses NT, AIX and OS/2, then the storage management tool we select must be able to manage these distributed platforms.' Back in 1998, ADSM provided the answer at the Utrecht site. Tivoli Storage Manager is the successor of ADSM. So it goes without saying that Fortis turned to Tivoli and its business partners Solution 6000 and supplier Esscon Services, to work on the project at one of the bank's headquarters located in Amsterdam.

Eskes explains: 'Solution 6000 and Esscon worked on the Amsterdam project in the pre-implementation phase'. He adds: 'In conjunction with us they defined an effective and efficient architecture and infrastructure for us.' Ton de Wekker, managing director of Esscon says: "Before January 2000, Fortis was using ADSM, so it is natural for them to move from this to Tivoli Storage Manager. Moreover, they have already implemented the Tivoli System Management Suite.' Thus, Fortis has now installed Tivoli Storage Manager 3.7 on an RS/6000 H70 server with a 3494 library at the bank's Amsterdam head office.

Eskes estimates that the Tivoli Storage Manager system will be up and running sometime in May 2000. He explains: 'With Tivoli we can integrate almost every management aspect, Tivoli is a bundle of tools, based on an object oriented framework.' For an organisation like Fortis, which consists of a wide range of member companies, there is a real need for a product to link these disparate strands of technology. Indeed, Eskes is keen to emphasise that a number of applications being run are actually unique to Fortis. He says: 'Fortis Bank is in the process of the integration of MeesPierson, Generale Bank Nederland and VSB Bank, which brings along a variety of applications and data, i.e. some companies use both Exchange and Lotus Notes as a mail server.' He adds: 'We want to ensure the management of all these applications and data whilst at the same time saving money.'

Importantly, Eskes also believes that there is potential for Fortis to implement SANs (Storage Area Network) at some point in the future. He admits that the ICT department would like to consolidate its data onto fewer servers than it is currently using. It goes without saying that this is the key to significant savings for companies with huge storage needs and Eskes sees Fortis as no exception to this rule. He explains: 'It is definitely one of our goals to consolidate and centralise our data, therefore if it is consolidated then SANs could play a part in that.' According to Eskes, any company that is planning to implement a SAN should first do so on a limited number of sites. He says: 'You should start on a smaller environment and you can then use this as the basis for a much more complicated SAN.' Indeed, Eskes also singles out NT as providing an excellent platform to connect to a SAN. Given the burgeoning amounts of storage found in the NT arena at the moment it seems that the knock-on effect may be a rapid growth in SANs. If Fortis continues to grow at the same rapid pace then the company may need to consider SANs as the next piece in its storage puzzle.

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