Top financial clearinghouse moves to SAN infrastructure

The Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. (DTCC) is in the middle of a two-year migration from a mostly mainframe and decentralized client-server model to a storage-area network (SAN) that will centrally control more than 15TB of internal data related its to its US$23 trillion worth of securities.

The DTCC, a New York-based firm that provides the primary infrastructure for the clearing and settlement of the majority of the equity, corporate debt and bond transactions in the United States, went public with its SAN migration in a vendor announcement made yesterday.

Michael Obiedzinski, vice-president of Information Systems at DTCC, said that since starting the project 10 months ago, he’s continued a cautious adoption of the SAN model, beginning with the company’s tape backup systems and more recently integrating its disk arrays. Mission-critical data related to daily clearing and settlement activities will remain on its legacy mainframe system.

“We put servers on the SAN that we considered to have an internal impact first,” he said. “Some applications will be on our mainframes for years to come.”

DTCC is moving to the SAN in response to enormous growth in data related to increased trading. For example, over the past four months, data has increased fourfold. Obiedzinski also hopes to reduce the 30 per cent to 40 per cent of available data space that is wasted by inefficiencies in the current architecture.

An advantage of the SAN, which is about half completed, is an increase in the data throughput related to backup speeds, which have increased from 30MB per minute on 4mm tape drives to 400MB per minute on the Fibre Channel network. DTCC is also now able to manage four times as much data with the same number of data administrators.

The project includes consolidating 350 to 400 servers throughout the company into two data centers for ease of control, a move that dramatically reduces backup times.

The DTCC is using industry-leading technology such as Fibre Channel switches from San Jose-based Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and directors from McData Corp. in Broomfield, Colo. The DTCC’s storage boxes include Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp’s Clariion FC4700 disk array, Louisville, Colo.-based Storage Technology Corp.’s L700 tape silos and Sun Solaris and Intel Corp. servers running Windows NT and 2000.

Once the top-of-the-line equipment is in place, Obiedzinski wants to add more automation to his systems.

“The next thing we will move toward will be snapshots,” Obiedzinski said. “We’ll take snapshots of the data and backup from that so we won’t have to tie up application servers.”

Obiedzinski said the SAN is attached to redundant data centres, one in New York, the other in an unspecified off-site location. The data centres are connected by dark fibre using Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing technology, which increases bandwidth by shooting different data streams at different frequencies or wavelengths over the same optical fiber wire.

The fibre optic lines, however, are used for more basic communications needs than just data backup and recovery, which Obiedzinski said would be hard to justify.

“To just go out and do it just for a SAN, I don’t know who could do it. You’d have to have a tremendous need,” he said.

DTCC’s customer base includes 11,000 companies worldwide in the financial services industry, including the National Association of Securities Dealers and the New York Stock Exchange.