Seattle Northwest Securities (SNW) had a storage problem. With $10 billion of assets under management and one of the largest fixed-income sales and trading departments in the Pacific Northwest, its compliance environment was evolving. The investment bank was seeking new software that could archive e-mail and other electronic documents in line with the protection and retention requirements of SEC 17a-4. Its current optical technology just didn't cut it anymore.
After evaluating content-addressed storage technology from Network Appliance, EMC and Permabit, SNW settled on the latter. "Network Appliance didn't really give a full plethora of redundancy and fail-over," says Chu Abad, SNW's Vice President of IT. "With regard to EMC, they have similar technology, and the same basic concept, but for bang for the buck, we went with Permabit because we got more for what we paid for."
The investment bank's main reason for choosing Permabit's Permeon Compliance Vault was that the software could ensure no alterations or modifications on data, while offering the flexibility of putting retention periods on specific folders. This is an essential function when, for example, you need to store e-mail for the standard three-year term, but there are notes within the e-mail with thirty-year terms that you also need to keep.
Abad claims that the Permabit solution also offered over one terabyte of storage allocation, while competitor EMC could give only one terabyte or less because of its operating system. "With a Permabit solution, we actually get almost four terabytes' worth because of the redundancy and fail-over. There's a lot of storage space on redundancy and that's very important, especially when you're dealing with compliance and storage," he says.
More storage for less money is always appealing, but Celent Communications senior analyst Michael Haney brings up an important point. "Permabit can cost less than 50 percent of some of the competition, but it achieves these lower costs because it uses file systems and related APIs from the likes of Microsoft [i.e., Windows], rather than proprietary ones," he explains. "Although its reputation is improving quickly, Microsoft is often not viewed as enterprise-class."
Depending on your opinion of APIs, the fact that Permabit doesn't use proprietary hardware can be viewed as a positive or a negative. For SNW, which runs on Microsoft Exchange 2000 with e-mail archiving software from iLumin, the open architecture was a plus. "[The fact that] that you're not really tied in to proprietary hardware was very important for us because we didn't want to be stuck with going to a particular group to make hardware work," says Abad.
Abad also stresses that integration was a close-to-perfect process. "The [initial] interface with Windows was a little touchy, but it still worked, and Permabit's in-house developers had a patch the next day. I don't count that as a snag," he says.