A Grip on High-Speed Processing

By Tucker, Tracey | American Banker, October 14, 1994 | Go to article overview

A Grip on High-Speed Processing


Tucker, Tracey, American Banker


In the hit action film "Clear and Present Danger," CIA agent Jack Ryan, played by Harrison Ford, battles South American drug lords with the help of a robotic tape library made by Storage Technology Corp.

In the movie, StorageTek's PowderHorn library loads tape cartridges containing information that helps programmers at the data center decipher a code in one scene, and break into a CIA colleague's computer in another.

The system featured in the movie had glass panels, instead of the standard sheet metal, allowing viewers to catch a glimpse of the swinging robotic arm, equipped with infrared vision and cartridge-clutching "hands."

In reality, visitors to First Data Corp.'s Card Services Group in Omaha get a first-hand look at how the system is used for critical, albeit less exotic, activities.

First Data, the leading credit card processor -- which processes about 450 million on-line transactions a month -- uses robots, capable of selecting and mounting 700 tape cartridges per hour, in its batch processing operations.

At the company's underground processing center, the spectacle of activities and equipment reminds one of NASA's command center during a launch, said Bruce Popken, manager of systems capacity. Television monitors allow visitors to see what the robots "see," he said, and give them an idea of what it would be like to be on a robotic arm moving at speeds topping 60 miles per hour.

Introduced in 1993, the PowderHorn library works with computing platforms ranging from networks of PCs to the largest supercomputers.

First Data has 10 libraries, which run on the company's mainframes.

Fully configured, one PowderHorn holds 6,000 36-track tape cartridges, about 9.6 terabytes of information.

To get an idea of just how much information that is, consider that one terabyte is the equivalent of 20 million document images or 500 million pages of text.

The mind-boggling amount of space in the combined libraries is used for storage of daily processing data and for long-term archiving. Each day, the company's four mainframes capture online transactions and process such bank records as general ledger, collections, settlements and authorizations, and reports, an operation that runs around the clock.

Linked to the mainframes are 319 tape drives, activated when "job requests" or requests for information are made, either to write new information on the tapes, or read information that's already been stored. The company runs 550,000 such job requests per month.

This is where the robots come in. Each one sits in the middle of an eight-sided tape shelf that's 7 1/22 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter.

Day after day, the robots tirelessly locate and grab tapes, and place them into drives.

The robots know which tapes to select by communicating with the mainframes through software.

Once a command to get a tape is issued, the robots use their infrared eyes to "read" bar code labels on the cartridges.

The robots can even share tapes. First Data's libraries are connected so that the arms can pass cartridges to each other, if necessary. If one robot is too busy to play a cartridge, for example, it'll slip the tape, through a door, to a less busy robot neighbor.

As information in the library expires, cartridges are freed up to be reused, another process that's automated.

The computers keep track of the age of information and let the robots know when they can reuse tapes.

From the same basic storage and retrieval function, a number of ancillary applications have been developed. For example, using StorageTek's ViewDirect software, users at First Data can sign onto terminals and have online access to information directly from tapes. With this application, termed "microfiche replacement," high-speed searches can be done, and multiple users can share tape volumes and report databases. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Grip on High-Speed Processing
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.