Optical Disc Technology and Open Systems: Planning for Conversions to the New Technology

Article excerpt

Organizations have employed optical disk-based image processing systems widely and successfully for more than a decade. These systems have been used for a variety of purposes ranging from simple storage and retrieval applications to advanced forms of automated document-based work flow, involving image character recognition and image transmission.

While continuing the use of optical disk systems, organizations may encounter the need to replace existing vendor-specific (proprietary) and/or stand-alone systems with up-to-date networked platforms based on the open non-proprietary model. Indeed, many organizations have already converted their older proprietary or "legacy" systems to the current technology. However, many others still rely on their legacy systems to support image processing applications and may soon have to convert to open systems.

To successfully plan for systems conversions, organizations must develop justifications and objectives for moving to open systems platforms, and focus technical planning on several interrelated elements. These technical elements encompass the server configuration and base software, including the network management system, applications software environment, image capture and storage subsystems, client stations, output and communications devices, and systems interfaces. Also, organizations must include plans for the conversion process itself, as well as for project management and post-system implementation support to ensure smooth cut-over to the new technology.

TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT AND THE RATIONALE FOR CHANGE

Older stand-alone systems use dedicated processors (typically personal computers), which control all core functions - document scanning, indexing, image retrieval, printing, etc. By their nature, stand-alone systems are limited in capacity and typically support simple image storage and retrieval applications for a single department.

Mainframe/mini-computer and proprietary networked systems can support multiple applications and be scaled to service several departments. They may also serve as organization-wide image processing platforms, support automated work flow applications, and be linked with external data processing systems. For example, they could be linked to corporate mainframes via terminal emulation software and/or asynchronous protocols with inter-screen data transfer capabilities.

Legacy technology is based on proprietary (vendor-specific) hardware and software. This means that the imaging software can run only on a specific vendor's hardware platform. Likewise, images are stored in proprietary formats and must be stored on and accessed via a specific vendor's system.

Proprietary arrangements were the only practical options for implementing image processing during the early stages of the technology's life cycle. However, this is no longer the case. Technological developments relating to optical disk-based image processing systems have closely tracked developments in the broader computer and information technology sphere. Specifically, technological advances and market forces have fostered the burgeoning use of non-proprietary (open), networked systems.

"Open systems" can be defined in a number of ways. However, in broad terms, the open technology model encompasses systems that 1) use common industry products; 2) operate on multiple computing platforms; 3) possess the capacity to be migrated from platform to platform with relative ease; and 4) easily interconnect or interoperate with other systems in a networked environment.(1)

The widespread use of open systems technology has caused most legacy technologies to become obsolete. This fact alone may constitute the most compelling rationale for replacing legacy systems. Technical obsolescence exposes organizations that use proprietary technology to two interrelated and fundamental risks:

Lack of maintenance support - Due to market trends, system vendors may no longer manufacture, stock or service key hardware components and may discontinue support for proprietary software. …