Parking management firm T2 Systems turned to a more sophisticated SAN infrastructure to take its operations into the digital age.
By Samuel Greengard
Over the span of a decade, parking lot management has gone from high touch to high tech. Airports, colleges, hospitals and myriad other facilities have deployed technology to manage their parking operations. A company at the center of the revolution is T2 Systems, Inc., an Indianapolis firm that provides technology-focused parking management tools that span cards, permits, citations and towing. At any given moment, the firm tracks about 26 million vehicles, 22 million drivers, 93 million parking permits and 42 million citations.
Managing an array of gated facilities, off-street parking operations and other tasks requires sophisticated IT systems. T2 runs its operations through on-premise systems and cloud-based software. "We have times when there is a huge spike in buying permits or using facilities. The IT systems must be able to withstand peak loads and the systems must operate in real-time," explains Jim Hutchins, CIO and executive vice president for T2 Systems.
Altogether, the firm processes more than one billion transactions per day. In order to keep its cloud environment up and running 24x7x365, T2 Systems turned to EMC Velocity Solution Partner Integrated Data Storage to deploy an EMC VSPEX Proven Infrastructure solution including EMC VNX with the FAST Suite, EMC Data Domain, Cisco UCS servers, and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization. A 10-gigabit Cisco FCoE connects to the SAN, which provides about 70 terabytes of data capacity.
The IT infrastructure, software and database, which contains about four billion rows of data, makes it possible to support an array of technologies and tools, including RFID, magnetic-stripe cards, barcode cards and cash. The system also allows customers to manage parking for events and temporary facilities—and change rules and access on the fly. "We operate vending gates from thousands of miles away," Hutchins says. In addition, the system includes a cached mode for local parking facilities. In the event of a disruption, a parking lot can pull data that no more than a day old. When the connection is reestablished, the data is refreshed.
The firm has also deployed a mobile optimized Website that allows motorists to pay citations and permits via their phones—and even handle appeals online. The company relies on an Oracle database to manage each customer uniquely and it has the ability to change access privileges in real-time. Moreover, if a parking officer enters a citation into the system via a handheld device, it's possible to pay it immediately over the web or through a smartphone.
The SAN has helped T2 Systems achieve significant gains. Swapping tape for EMC Data Domain enabled T2 to shrink its backup window by 50 percent and restore time by more than 90 percent, from about an hour to only five minutes. In addition, the VSPEX physical footprint and energy consumption is approximately half of the firm's previous infrastructure. The result is lower administrative expenses, reduced complexity and overall lower costs. In fact, T2 now relies on only 2 percent total Flash capacity to power 80 percent of its virtualized Oracle IO.
"We are continuing to add customers and they are continuing to push deeper into online functionality," Hutchins says. "With the cloud infrastructure, software and SAN that's in place, they only have to connect to the Internet. Everything takes place invisibly."