Knowing what to store delivers SecurityMail’s competitive advantage
- 12 March, 2004 14:53
Generating 750,000 pieces of mail each day, mailing house SecurityMail turned to VERITAS Software for a simple, more robust data storage model that would allow it to focus on what it does best – solving complex, logistical mailing challenges for corporate clients.
“SecurityMail’s batch transactions are different to what most people in the IT industry are used to dealing with,” says Peter Higgs, CIO of SecurityMail. “They are small in number but huge in size.”
SecurityMail distributes documents such as invoices, statements and annual reports to thousands of Australian households each day. SecurityMail takes ‘data streams’ (raw data pertaining to what needs to be mailed to whom) from its clients – often telcos, banks and others that do large batch mailings – and converts them into ‘output files’ (the electronic version of what goes to Australia Post).
Managing and automating batch mailings is a complicated business, as it draws information from various sources and requires sophisticated applications to collate the information reliably. To support this in an industry where data are getting increasingly larger, Higgs was confronted with a pressing need to dramatically improve SecurityMail’s storage architecture. “The challenge is the sheer size of data we move around,” he explains, highlighting a recent mailing in New South Wales that had to go to two million residents, creating a 500-gigabyte output file. “That puts a scale to the size of the files we generate and keep. Those data requirements require big fat pipes and robust architecture and it makes disaster recovery very interesting.” The problem SecurityMail had was that it was generating and storing a terabyte’s worth of output files each week and protecting it all.
SecurityMail had been using VERITAS file systems for several years and looked to VERITAS, and reseller Alphawest, to provide a storage and disaster-recovery solution. “Data comes in, we manipulate it and produce output files, send it to Australia Post and then it’s gone,” says Higgs. “When we assessed our requirements, we realised we didn’t need to keep all records as they churned so quickly. What we needed to protect was the application.”
Alphawest and VERITAS suggested that SecurityMail switch its focus and simplify its storage. “Normally in a disaster-recovery situation what you go after is all the data flows and replicate them,” explains Higgs. “What we needed to do was go after the application because that’s what is unique to us, and it’s that from which we derive our competitive advantage.”
Over the past five months, Higgs migrated SecurityMail’s data to reduce the number of its data centres from three to two, and implemented a new storage management suite from VERITAS. Now that the migration is over, Higgs says he has seen a 60 per cent drop in the amount of online data growth while the company’s data storage capacity has gone up. Today, the new online and near-line storage solution automates synchronous data replication between its Sydney and Brisbane data centres.
Higgs says SecurityMail is now turning work around 20 to 30 per cent faster than when it was using its old storage model, which has made it more competitive and efficient. “We have introduced some new products for our clients by finding a smart way to deal with our storage,” he says.