Banks put HP archiving appliance to the test

A Wall Street firm tests HP's archiving appliance for compliance data; plans to migrate from IBM's CommonStore, its incumbent product

Wall Street firms are among the first users of Hewlett Packard Co.'s new archiving appliance, and despite the heavy price-tag for this system, early feedback looks encouraging.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company introduced its Reference Information Storage System (RISS) in early May and claims the biggest motivator for sales right now is compliance. The RISS appliance includes the grid computing and archiving software HP picked up via its acquisition of Persist, plus its own ProLiant x86 series servers and MSA storage for the purposes of archiving, indexing, and retrieving data.

The base system with 4 TB of storage costs a whopping $448,757, but at least one major financial institution said it is seeing a 70% reduction in its total cost of ownership and expects a return on its investment in less than a year.

The New York bank, which wished to remain anonymous, required a 10 TB system to archive all its live and legacy Lotus Notes e-mail data for SEC compliance. It loaded 5 TB of legacy Notes data from tape, spanning three different versions of the application and data collected over four years.

A key requirement was to speed up its retrieval times. The bank had been using IBM's CommonStore product, which was taking between 10 and 12 hours to retrieve data and was wasting expensive legal time, the firm said. It also required the IT administrator's attention around the clock. The company declined to provide any more details on the problems it experienced with this product.

During a competitive analysis phase, the bank checked out EMC Corp.'s Centera appliance and offerings from Ixos Software AG., and discovered that HP's RISS appliance worked out to be cheaper once it factored in the costs of servers, database software and a journaling file system.

A key differentiator for users of this box is the integration of all the components needed to build a complete archiving product, as well as support for standards-based software, according to Jack Scott, analyst with the Evaluator Group. "Once HP integrates RISS with its OpenView software and adds SAN connectivity capabilities, it will be a dynamite product," he said.

Scott added that RISS stores and indexes data using a parallel search function, whereas most archiving products perform serial searches. "It means it is fast enough to go through millions of documents in a matter of seconds," Scott said.

Calvin Zito, ILM strategic marketing manager at HP, warns users that accessing data is more important than just putting it on cheap disk. "How do you get it back four years from now when the application [that created it] is no longer there?" he said, cautioning users not to build "a digital landfill".

RISS achieves scalability through the use of a grid computing architecture, which is composed of what HP refers to as "smart cells" or blades. Each is a self-contained computing device with a dedicated processor and on-board storage. RISS migrates data and distributes objects across the cells. Each cell holds the original data, meta data relating to the content and a full text index of the data, allowing for robust search capabilities based on keywords, according to HP.

For compliance reasons, RISS digitally signs and timestamps data, which can also be written in a Write Once Read Many (WORM) format. HP plans to introduce a smaller version of the appliance with less capacity and smaller operational cells. "It will be channel friendly," said a company spokesman.


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