STARS stores reports on tape, saves money

The Navy’s Standard Accounting Reporting System has made significant cost savings
and productivity gains by storing financial reports on tape, said Dan Hestor, who supports
STARS users at the Defense Megacenter in Mechanicsburg, Pa.


The megacenter has trimmed its disk storage requirements to one-third of what they were
in 1995 when STARS came online, Hestor said. “We saved the equivalent of more than 10
packs of direct-access storage devices,” he said.


Although viewing reports from tape is slow, STARS users don’t mind waiting 15
seconds for something they need only occasionally, said George Benko, the STARS program
manager.


STARS has scripting tools for creating tailored views of mainframe report data.


“Clerks were taking two weeks to take the data from reports, then rekeying it in
Microsoft Excel, and it was just killing their productivity,” Hestor said.
“We’ve knocked that down to 30 minutes’ run-time for a specific
script.”


When the STARS application is Web-enabled, users and megacenter support staff should
see more speed and savings, Benko said.


Last December, STARS users got encrypted Web browser access to the mainframe
report-viewing application over the Defense Department’s Non-Classified IP Router
Network, he said.


Web access to STARS uses DocumentDirect for the Internet, an application in the
Electronic Document Warehouse suite from Mobius Management Systems Inc. of New Rochelle,
N.Y. The Mobius suite is STARS’ underlying report distribution software.


DocumentDirect for the Internet makes a Common Gateway Interface link between
Mobius’ Electronic Document Warehouse and a Web intranet or Internet server.


The Defense Finance and Accounting Service has set up Web online report viewing for its
internal applications on PC servers [GCN, Sept. 21, 1998, Page 40].


“That’s fine for DFAS internal applications,” Benko said, but it
doesn’t fit the bill for the Navy’s centralized general fund accounting system.


The Mobius software at Mechanicsburg runs on an IBM Corp. Model 9672 mainframe-class
server under OS/390 with RACF and DB2 database management software. The complementary
metal-oxide semiconductor server processes 460 million instructions per second.


STARS users can view computer-generated, printer-formatted or scanned documents through
a Microsoft Windows-based STARS document viewer and navigation tool, or they can stick
with IBM 3270 screen views.


There are 15,000 STARS users at 2,540 field locations worldwide, and no two users are
alike in computing resources and know-how, Benko said. Some still work at Zenith Data
Systems Z-248 PCs; others have no LAN access.


The Mechanicsburg megacenter maintains 41 different maintenance and administrative
regions on its CMOS server to define specific reports’ access rights and indexing and
storage locations. The megacenter handles 660,000 financial reports for STARS users,
Hestor said.


Besides DocumentDirect for the Internet, the Mobius application suite that is available
24 hours a day to STARS users includes the ViewDirect archive and report distribution
server, DocuAnalyzer data extraction tool, and WriteDirect facility for writing mainframe
reports directly to tape media.


The Mobius ViewDirect software has saved the megacenter thousands of dollars in DASD
costs by writing mainframe financial reports on more cost-effective media, said John
Szwast, systems support division chief at Mechanicsburg.


“When you’re closing out a contract, you have to keep the data for a long
time, but you want to keep it on storage media far less expensive than DASD,” Szwast
said.


With more user training and access to specialized STARS software, Navy finance offices
could achieve even greater cost savings and productivity gains, Hestor said.


Even with reported regional accounting center savings of $300,000 a year on paper and
printing costs, the Navy has realized “only 10 percent, I bet” of the potential
savings, Hestor said.

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