Archive storage solutions for ERP are rarely an option: Page 2

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To archive or not to archive

Why, some ask, can't I just use the archiving facility that comes with my ERP system instead of shelling out more money for an additional piece of software and a host of storage media?

Steve Tirone, senior analyst for the SAP Advisory Program at AMR Research Inc., of Boston, explains that there are two sides to archiving:

Popular archive storage solutions for ERP

Here, from ERP-specific to more general, are five of the most popular after-market archiving solutions available today:

IBM CommonStore

IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.

This product is specifically for SAP archiving and document management. It removes inactive data from the operational SAP system to an external archive. Using the SAP ArchiveLink interface, IBM CommonStore integrates with R/3's financial, logistics, and human resources applications. The product also can function as a universal document management system. It supports storage devices, including optical jukeboxes and tape libraries.


iXOS Software AG, Munich, Germany

Since iXOS is an SAP business partner, it's only natural that iXOS is optimized for the SAP environment. This software tool allows R/3 users to view an entire business process and all relevant documents from inside the SAP ERP system. The product can support several thousand users and incorporate tens of thousands of new documents every day, according to a company spokesperson. The system works with all of the major archiving hardware.

Panagon Document Warehouse for SAP

FileNET Corp., Costa Mesa, Calif.

This suite of software allows SAP customers to capture, display, store, retrieve, and manage R/3-linked images, documents, and reports. It archives R/3 objects, including invoices and reports, and links to SAP Business Workflow. The modular, component-based architecture integrates to the SAP ArchiveLink interface and supports all SAP archiving scenarios.


Mobius Management Systems Inc., Rye, N.Y.

This general archiving engine and server supports both host-based and client/server implementations, scaling from the desktop to the department to the enterprise. Supported platforms include OS/390, Windows NT, UNIX, OS/2, OS/400, and NetWare. The system integrates all documents, making them available for viewing through a single point of access. ViewDirect's Universal Archive is a device-independent storage format that supports any mix of storage media, including disk, tape, and optical. It automatically manages the migration of long-term retention documents, moving the archive to less expensive storage as documents age. Through ViewDirect's EnterpriseIndex users can access multilevel documents.

"There is data you have to be able to access all the time, and then there is data you have to keep forever in a readable format, but perhaps not on the main system," he says. "ERP systems all have some way of allowing you to take transactions out of your production tables and put them into a compressed archiving table, but those files are still within your system."

That's where third-party solutions such as iXOS-ARCHIVE and CommonStore from IBM Corp., of Armonk, N.Y., come in (see box at right). These solutions take the archive files generated by ERP archiving and manage them in an accessible format. They move the data to tertiary storage on magneto-optical hard drives, CD-ROMs, disk cache, or tape array.

Depending on whether or not you need to access the archived data frequently and what formats you need the data in, you may not need a third-party system. "But if you don't buy one, you have to keep archived files within your ERP storage systems," Tirone says. "So you are caught between a rock and a hard place." In the end, he says, most companies with large ERP systems will end up buying a third-party archive storage system.

Understanding your data

Before you engage in archiving, make sure you understand your company's data and its relationship to other data and other applications within the organization.

"A company like Coca-Cola is going to use more features, and there will be many more cross-referenced tables than exist in a smaller company," says John Klaren, manager of presales consultants at iXOS. "If you turn on switches A, C, and D versus only A or A, B, C, and D, it will do different things. You have to understand your data before you can archive it."

Make sure the data you want to archive is "business complete"--that all associated documents to the document being archived are finished being used and that all associated documents are referenceable together in their archived state--before archiving, recommends Charles Farren, program manager for data archiving at SAP America Inc., of Newtown Square, Pa. "You don't want to remove delivery of associated billing documents, for example. It's not just a process of removing one table. You have to get across different tables and ensure that the data will be moving onto the storage system in an orderly fashion," he says.

After identifying relationships within the data, it's important to determine how that data will be used in the future.

"Do you need to read the data or be able to look at it in exactly the same format it was in when it was in the database, or do you just need to have a report from across the data? Do you need to reload the data into the database at a later stage?" Farren asks.

And the way you archive data will depend quite a bit on the type of industry you are in.

"Typically, the television [broadcasting] industry isn't perceived as being heavily transaction oriented, but if you realize that the industry treats every episode of a weekly production as an enterprise, you quickly run into some very high volumes of financial transactions. Did I make money on this particular episode? What are the costs associated with production of that particular episode?" says John Schiff, senior technologist at J.D. Edwards & Co., an ERP vendor based in Denver. "By gearing your archiving strategy to your industry and your needs, you'll achieve greater success."

Schiff notes that data archiving will be much easier if your company has an adequate data warehousing strategy: "If you are using your current transaction files as your data warehouse, that's where you get into trouble. But if you have a data warehousing strategy in place that extracts your decision data, then the archiving becomes much simpler," he says.

How much storage is enough?

As Chevron Canada's Edmund Yee quickly found out, there is almost no such thing as too much storage. And the experts agree.

It seems the best advice is to analyze your needs the best way you can and then double or triple that number to determine your present storage requirements. And revisit the issue often, because databases tend to grow exponentially over time.

Analysts at Fujitsu Microelectronics Inc., of San Jose, Calif., a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujitsu Ltd., underestimated their system's needs for a variety of reasons.

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