The Idaho Supreme Court adopted an advanced hybrid flash storage system to make essential information more accessible and available to attorneys and the public.
Although organizations of all shapes and sizes face enormous demands to make data more accessible and available, few face as steep a challenge as a court system. Mountains of paperwork and files—typically in the form of legal briefs, court cases and other public records— must be made available to attorneys and, in many cases, the public.
"Visibility into records is critically important," says Kristy Grabo, virtualization and storage lead in the IT department for the Idaho Supreme Court.
A couple of years ago, the court system, which is headquartered in the capital city of Boise, had to cope with a decentralized, out-of-date database system and more than 200 terabytes of data to store. Attorneys, judges and others sometimes had to drive hundreds of miles to reach a courthouse where they could access essential records, including documents, audio files and emails. That devoured time and money.
With 44 counties—each with a different database—"There was near zero visibility from one county to another," Grabo explains. "It was an extremely unwieldy system."
In 2013, the Idaho Supreme Court recognized a need to modernize its storage framework and consolidate databases in a centralized on-premise cloud. The first step involved migrating from an IBM AS/400 platform running Oracle databases to an SQL environment running on real-time virtual machines. Then the IT department began examining a more advanced storage platform consisting of either all-flash technology or hybrid arrays.
After surveying the vendor landscape and conducting an analysis, the court system adopted hybrid flash storage from Tegile Systems. This approach allowed the Idaho Supreme Court to use fast flash storage for the SQL databases, while optimizing costs for other less-demanding data. IT can dial up and down flash capacity as needed.
Hybrid Storage Arrays Provide Easy Access to Public Records
In April 2015, the court system went live with the new technology in its first county, and it will systematically roll out the system across the state over the next five years. It currently has two counties running on the hybrid arrays. Using the system, judges, attorneys and citizens can access needed documents—all public records—at a courthouse that's closer to their community or remotely while on the road. They can also file certain paperwork and forms.
"The system streamlines information access and input—everything from court cases to documents required to pay a fine. Likewise, clerks and other staff no longer spend time looking up records and files in physical file cabinets. "It is a very effective use of taxpayers' dollars," Grabo says.
The biggest challenge, she adds, has been converting the databases. The process is slow and requires close attention because different counties have mapped data slightly differently. "In some cases, counties have fine-tuned the databases to work better for them," she notes.
Installing the arrays has been relatively seamless. Access to data is based on specific roles and rights that are assigned to different groups and employees. The storage framework delivers a data deduplication rate of 35 to 40 percent on-site and 60 to 65 percent at the disaster recovery site.
"We have taken a giant step forward," Grabo reports.
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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