A Tale of Tape: Prudential Securities Streamlines Intelligent Tape Management

Prudential Securities takes control of its tape storage management by stabilizing its budget, reducing human intervention, and maximizing hardware and media resources - and by selecting Software Engineering of America's Zela.

Information technology professionals are working toward the concept of thepaperless data center, but the vision of a tapeless data center is so far from realitythat even futurists have difficulty in imagining what a data center without tape wouldlook like. In fact, tape storage has increased in popularity. However, while tape and taperesources represent a significant and growing investment, tape continues to be one of themost under-utilized resources in the data center.

Nevertheless, while eliminating tape is not an option for most companies, many datacenters are committed to maximizing their return on their investment in tape resources.The most progressive data centers look for ways to reclaim the wasted space on tapes thatare, on the average, less than 50 percent full. Because of the way tape is configured,small datasets can often reserve an entire reel or cartridge. When companies routinelyhave to manage hundreds of thousands of tapes, the cost of storing and managing emptyspace creates significant hits on the bottom line.

Whether companies elect to manage tape manually, using tape rack library systems, orwith automated robotic processes, they need to keep up with production processing, newtechnology, and meeting its commitments and service level agreements. Inevitably, storagemanagement professionals are faced with overcoming many of the following challenges:

For Managing Manual Tape Libraries

  • Running out of media, scratch volumes and tape devices.
  • Complications managing Catalog, Cycle, Usage or user-controlled datasets.
  • Costs to move or make copies of production application files for disaster recovery.
  • Under-staffed and overworked storage management teams.
  • Consolidating data centers.

For Managing Automated Tape Library Systems

  • Scratch volumes not available for production processing.
  • Running out of tape slots within the robotics facilities.
  • Synchronizing the tape management system, MVS catalog and robotics control datasets.
  • Costs of moving media in and out of the robotics.
  • Constantly allocating funds for additional media and robotics.

The solution to both sets of challenges is intelligent media and robotic management.

The principal goal of media and robotic management is to intelligently maximize mediautilization and reclaim wasted storage space. The goal of automated scratch poolmanagement is achieved through a combination of consolidation of datasets through datasetstacking, compression, reblocking and media conversion. Through high speed copying ofdatasets, data can be moved from tape to DASD or optical storage.

In addition, it can be used to populate a virtual tape system from tape. The result isincreased flexibility to achieve diverse storage management objectives for eachenvironment.

The benefits to enterprises of tape stacking can be enormous. To gain some perspectiveon the possible benefits, consider a data center that uses five tape libraries to supportits batch tape operations using 3480 technology. These libraries might hold about 5,000cartridges each, for a total capacity of five libraries times 5,000 slots per librarytimes 200MB per cartridge, equaling 5 million megabytes, or 5TB. All this data would fiton fewer than 200 IBM 3590 cartridges or Storage Technology Corp. (Louisville, Colo.) STKHelical Scan cartridges with a typical compression ratio of 1-to-3.

Tape stacking is the facility that allows users to write multiple logical tape volumeson a single physical volume, separating the physical storage medium from the logical tapevolume used by the application. Given the current low use of cartridges, volume stackinghas the potential to greatly increase the effective use of cartridges, thus reducing thenumber of cartridges and libraries required. Equally important is that far fewer driveswill be required and fewer mounts will remain.

With over $230 billion in client assets under management, Prudential Securities is thefifth-largest brokerage firm in the United States. The company operates through 300offices in 19 countries worldwide; it has 16 offices in Europe, 20 institutional and 250retail offices in North America, and five offices in Latin America. Prudential Securitieshas one of the world's largest equity distribution networks. Prudential Securities is asubsidiary of The Prudential Insurance Company of America.

Prudential Securities relies extensively on its automated tape management systems. Thecompany is committed to silo technology as a critical part of its strategy to increase theefficiency of tape systems, increase throughput, and lower overall operating costs. Thecompany chose Software Engineering of America's (Franklin Square, N.Y.) Zela to improveits tape performance. The firm uses Zela's stacking facilities to improve silo efficiencyby intelligently stacking multiple datasets onto a single cartridge. The company acquiredZela to squeeze maximum performance out of its considerable investment in automated tapelibraries, according to Joe Graffanino, Vice President of Data Center Support.

"Each slot in a silo represents a fixed cost," Graffanino says. A data centertypically uses only 10 percent to 40 percent of the capacity of each cartridge in theirsilos, he explains. By stacking these cartridges, data centers can increase cartridgeutilization by 90 percent. "Density for each slot goes up while the cost of the slotgoes down; you maximize the use of your silo slots, deferring future hardware purchasesmonths or even years," he says.

Prudential Securities was primarily interested in identifying and reclaiming wastedresources. Every data center has to insure that there are plenty of scratch cartridgesavailable or production processing stops.

After Prudential Securities stacks its datasets, the remaining cartridges are scratchedand reclaimed for the scratch pool. Based on an extensive analysis of its tape inventoryof 1.2 GB media, the company realized that 50 percent of all the tapes in a productioncycle were less than half full, Graffanino says. "We needed some smart solutions tobetter manage the libraries and silos -- and that's what Zela does for PrudentialSecurities."

Prudential Securities also intelligently manages the process of ejecting cartridgesfrom silos for vaulting purposes, a necessary but time-consuming, manual process. Bystacking critical datasets on a single cartridge, the company cuts its vaulting costs bymoving fewer cartridges offsite.

Prudential Securities supports its worldwide operations from a data center in New YorkCity with a disk storage capacity of 8.0 TB and a tape library featuring 10 StorageTechnology Powderhorn robotic libraries and two STK 4400 libraries.

According to Graffanino, Zela also resolves many of the challenges associated withautomated tape libraries by dramatically reducing the need for unused tape cartridgeduring daily operations. Zela emphasizes strategic data movement through dataset copying(Logical Ejection), rather than tape cartridge replacement. "Our goal is to eliminatemanual operations using Logical Ejection," he says.

Based on just two measurements, Prudential Securities calculates that Zela has paid foritself.

First, expected growth in the tape library would have added an additional 40-50 percentto the 250,000 tapes already in production. The deployment of Zela has reduced that growthand associated expense to manage those additional tapes.

Second, the tool has deferred the acquisition of additional tape management hardware,freeing up the capital budget for more strategic investment. First year savings, accordingto Graffanino, exceeded expectations.

One concern of Prudential Securities was laid to rest soon after Zela was installed."We were concerned that the overhead associated with Zela procedures would impact ourability to deliver other services, but tuned with a little common sense, Zela's overheadis
transparent to normal operations," Graffanino says. "When it's well-tuned, it'shard to detect the overhead."

Prudential Securities has succeeded in streamlining tape storage management bystabilizing budget and improving tape environment. It also reduced human intervention andmaximized hardware and media resources. It has done these things by making more efficientuse of media by consolidating datasets through dataset stacking, compression, reblocking,and media conversions.

These savings dramatically reduce the number of tape volumes used by active datasets,while reclaiming media for future production processing. By deploying an intelligent tapemanagement system, Prudential Securities has demonstrated savings that have not only paidfor the system in a matter of months, but have created a tape environment that helps itmeet its long-term performance objectives.

About the Author:

John Kador is a freelance writer in Geneva, Ill.