New storage for cheques at Westpac

'Superb solution' but not for everybody, says analyst

Westpac is soon to deploy a new storage system from EMC to house its cheque voucher and signature authority records.

The bank bought EMC's Centera storage rack earlier this year and installed the boxes at the end of September, Westpac core systems architect Steve Parkin says.

The cheque-related records are presently held on a mainframe for two months and then moved to tape and Parkin says the move to the Centera means older records that need verifying will be able to be called up more quickly.

"Records more than two months old need to be retrieved from tape and you can't do that while you've got a customer in front of you," Parkin says.

The bank bought two systems which can each store 10TB of data, "which will be enough for seven years worth of cheques and will possibly be used for email."

The Centera hardware has APIs to other storage management software vendors, including Mobius, which Westpac uses.

Parkin says the cost and ease of management where what swung the decision EMC's way when it came to choosing a new storage system for the cheque archives.

"Traditionally, storage management is heavy in terms of demand for backup, files etcetera and generating extra capacity.

"Centrena is a black box — you get the object, keep an eye on it and get it when you need it."

Parkin wouldn't say which other vendors Westpac looked at when sourcing its new storage system, but says "we did look at one or two other technologies and didn't find anything else on a par."

The term Information Lifecycle management is one often used to describe the future of storage and EMC is a prime mover behind the concept, but Parkin doesn't see Westpac's selection of Centera as a move in that direction.

"This kind of device probably challenges that in may ways — the old way of managing the information lifecycle was to have it available in high performance real time for the first few days then move it to optical disk or tape."

With Centera, on the other hand, it's possible to access data and put it back quickly, he says.

EMC describes Centera as content addressed storage and it uses Worm (Write once, read many) technology and self-healing and authentication features.

Centera operates as a RAIN (redundant array of individual nodes) rather than RAID environment, which makes it less complex than RAID-based systems, EMC says.

IDC Australia storage analyst Graham Penn says the Centera is "a superb solution if you need it," but it's not for everyone and "there are cheaper boxes out there."

Those who will benefit most from Centera are large organisations with significant fixed content, he says.

"It's never going to be a small to medium business product."

However, for organisations that have fixed content and can see significant operational savings over time, it's a good option, he says, adding that it can save a lot of paper for organisations that store fixed content manually and is especially beneficial if that content can be accessed over a network.

Due to its nature as a new product, sales cycles for Centera are around 6–9 months and it is generally sold through integrators, he says.

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