Chevron Cleans Up Fragmented Drives

BOSTON (06/05/2000) - Having 30,000 users accessing shared information on its servers led to noticeable system performance degradation at Chevron Corp. about 18 months ago. The problem was disk fragmentation.

The barrage of activity, in which users accessed Microsoft Corp.'s System Management Server, along with application and file servers, created the problem on laptops, desktops and servers, said Mike Wolfe, senior engineer of security at Chevron's information technology arm in San Ramon, California.

After monitoring the activity for three months, Chevron found that 33 percent of the files on users' PCs and laptops had data stored haphazardly on the hard disks, Wolfe said.

The US$2 billion San Francisco-based petroleum giant's IT staff blamed the problem on the way Microsoft's Windows NT 4.0 Workstation stores data on hard drives. Data wasn't being stored sequentially, but wherever space on the drives existed, Wolfe said. The disk fragmentation problem damaged some files and increased the number of calls to the help desk, he said.

Looking for a fix, Chevron tested Symantec Corp.'s Version 5.0 of Norton Speed Disk for Windows NT and Executive Software International's Diskeeper 5.0, along with several other products Wolfe was unable to name. Wolfe and his team picked Norton Speed Disk 5.0, citing better performance and more efficient hard-drive optimization, enabling users to manage the defragmentation process themselves, Wolfe said.

A cost-effective licensing and maintenance agreement was also a factor, he said. Symantec's list price is $49.95 per seat, but Wolfe declined to say how much Chevron paid for its license.

According to Wolfe, Norton Speed Disk has accelerated hard-drive access for end users by an average of 20 percent, depending on the particular fragmentation level and which applications were typically run.

"Our support people felt like the Maytag [repairman]" as the number of calls for support decreased, Wolfe said.

But not everyone at Chevron is impressed with Norton Speed Disk's performance.

Rick Roller, Chevron's deskside support senior analyst, said the fragmentation problem has been reduced, but files still need to be optimized better. He agreed that the way NT stores data on the drives is part of the problem.

Microsoft didn't respond to requests for comment.

The fragmentation issue may be further resolved with the deployment of Windows 2000, which Chevron expects to carry out within six to 12 months, Wolfe said.

The company will take another look at the performance and capability of Executive Software's Diskeeper 5.0, which is built into Windows 2000. Chevron may stick with Norton Speed Disk, or it may use both products, he said.

Chevron's problem is a common one, according to International Data Corp. (IDC), a Framingham, Massachusetts-based research firm. Over time, files can take 10 to 15 times longer to access, boot times may triple and nightly server backups can take hours longer, IDC said.

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