Downtime is not an option in a Pa. county

With a staff of 46, the Montgomery County, Pa., Information Service Department supports 2,000 applications in 47 county departments at 16 locations. It is using fault-tolerant servers from NEC Computers Inc. of Boxborough, Mass., to host applications in four areas for which uptime is crucial: elections, jail management, imaging, and print and file services.

The county's election management system cannot afford a single point of failure, said Dale Pennapacker, the IS director. The county's 496,000 voters use 1,100 electronic voting machines at 402 polling locations. The results, downloaded from cartridges on the voting machines every half-hour, are final on the county's Web site by midnight.

The jailhouse system tracks more than 1,000 inmates and requires 100 percent uptime, Pennapacker said. His staff also is installing an NEC server to replace four Hewlett-Packard Co. jukeboxes that support imaging applications for four departments, he said. By next month, the server's attached storage will retain 125G of imaging information.

A fourth job for the NEC Express5800/ft is file and print services. 'We were installing a lot of small file servers to maintain an adequate level of service and reliability,' Pennapacker said. Now the county can consolidate several servers into one to reduce storage and licensing costs, he said.

'Most people buy two servers and wait for one to fail,' said Mike Mitsch, director of enterprise products for NEC. 'Then when one fails, they connect the second one. NEC's FT servers don't do that. They don't cluster, they compare,' he said. 'If a machine has a blue screen of death outage, usually the IS guy will start swapping out components. Was it the hardware or the software? But the FT server can find what caused it.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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