Case Study: PKZIP AS/400

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"How can we transfer 5-10GB of data to our customers on a daily basis and not max out the network?" As Midrange Systems Engineer for Kingland Systems Corporation, I was responsible for solving this problem in a simple and expedient manner. PKZIP AS/400 from ASCENT SOLUTIONS Inc. (ASi) was the right fit.

With its roots in the financial industry, Kingland Systems Corporation (KSC) has developed into a leading provider of automated Web-based institutional transaction solutions (Financial Network System). Services provided by KSC include compliance, principal review, commissions, management reporting, data mining, and back-office interfaces for medium-to-large financial services companies. KSC also offers data center services, network solutions, and disaster recovery solutions. Our mission is to be a global provider of premier automation solutions to business and government through the development and operation of world-class software and technology infrastructure.

Developing applications for the financial services industry requires KSC to provide solutions that are scalable, reliable, and secure. At the request of several of our clients in 1995, we expanded upon our success in software development and successfully embarked into the service provider (xSP) market, now running those same programs on KSC's own computers. We process millions of trades worth billions of dollars every month in our data center.

The Problem

With the growth of KSC's business and product offerings, the need to transmit data in a timely manner was growing in importance. A second area of concern was the sheer size of the data that was being transferred between KSC and its customers. Transferred files to customers on average are 1.12GB in size. Over the course of a day, we can transfer 50 to 60GB of data.

KSC's network can handle that volume of traffic. However, the traffic did cause a strain on the system. Problems were beginning to appear. Data was taking an unacceptable long time to transfer. Also when transferring, the entire network performance would suffer. A solution needed to be found to eliminate the drain on the network and provide customers with timely data.

Search for a Solution

To eliminate the stress to our network, we would need to either make the pipeline bigger or make the contents smaller. The first reaction to the situation was to make the pipeline bigger, which we would accomplish by acquiring an additional network line. An additional line would give the network greater capacity to transfer data and reduce the occurrences of insufficient bandwidth.

This solution looked simple on paper. However, upon further examination, this option was found lacking in a few areas. Although transferring data is important and vital to the existence of the company, there had to be more cost-efficient ways to transfer increasing amounts of data. In addition, there are times during the day that no data is transferred, so the extra bandwidth would be a waste. As to the question of time, increased bandwidth would allow customers to get their data a bit faster, but only by a small percentage in comparison to other possible solutions.

Then, during a quick brainstorming session, the idea of compressing the data was proposed. Instead of making the pipeline bigger, we could make the contents smaller. The data we were transferring was full of blank spaces and was perfect for compression. What we were doing would be no different than sending an email with a compressed document. However, we would be sending a large package from an AS/400 platform via FTP versus a small attachment from a PC system. The key would be to find a solution that compressed data on the AS/400 and could be integrated easily in our existing transfer processes.

I went to the Internet and performed a few searches on data compression. Several compression solutions for the PC were included in the results. I then adjusted my search for data compression on the AS/400 and I found a link to ASi. The listing described a data compression utility that could be installed and operate within the AS/400 environment. I went to ASi's Web site, reviewed the literature, and learned that I could download and test PKZIP AS/400 free for 30 days.

Evaluation

After obtaining the PKZIP AS/400 evaluation, I had no difficulty installing the program. I briefly reviewed the accompanying material and then began to test the product. The first few ZIP jobs took a few minutes to complete because I was doing them manually and did not know all the bells and whistles of the product. However after a bit more practice, I was able to easily compress sample data.

I was pleased with the percentage of compression I was achieving on the sample compression jobs, so I ventured a step further and performed a few tests with selected customers. I was able to compress a 5GB file to 119MB, achieving a 98% level of compression.

Implementation and Integration

Based upon a successful evaluation period, I decided to purchase PKZIP and integrate it within our processes. We transfer binary and text data to our customers from our AS/400. We use FTP and call the entire process using an automated job. PKZIP AS/400 integrated very easily into our pre-existing transfer system. PKZIP can be called from a program and requires very little observation or maintenance.

Results

After we successfully implemented PKZIP AS/400, I was surprised by the quick ROI we achieved. Over the course of the first year of implementation, KSC was able to save $11,000 by compressing the data prior to transfer. This cost savings took the form of lower telecommunications costs, less "babysitting" of processes by personnel, and not having to purchase an additional network line. Our customers also saved on telecommunication costs because they were receiving compressed files that took less time to transfer.

Lessons Learned

PKZIP AS/400 was the right solution to solve our transfer problem. Data files are smaller and can be transmitted in a fraction of the time in comparison to uncompressed files. We are saving money by using PKZIP AS/400 and are very happy with our return on initial investment in comparison to other, more expensive alternatives.

Justin C. Haase is a Midrange Systems Engineer for Kingland Systems
Corporation. He has been working with midrange systems for 3 years. He
can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

ASCENT SOLUTIONS Inc. (ASi)

9009 Springboro Pike
Miamisburg, OH 45342
Tel: 937-847-2374
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: http://www.asizip.com/

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