Take control of your CD-ROM towers

Are you looking for better control over your network CD-ROM towers? Do you have a CD-ROM jukebox, but you're not sure how to manage it? SCSI Express, from Micro Design International, helps you manage these storage resources.

What exactly is SCSI Express? That's a difficult question to answer because the vendor's documentation doesn't explain what the software does. The user manual doesn't describe SCSI Express; instead the manual defines SCSI. After using SCSI Express, I'd describe it as software that lets you control your Windows NT SCSI subsystem when you use networkable CD-ROMs and jukeboxes.

I installed SCSI Express on my Digital Equipment Prioris HX590 running NT 4.0 Server. The computer connects to a RAID array, several stand-alone SCSI disks, and a Boffin CD-ROM tower. To install the software, I ran the Setup program and answered a few basic questions. I had to reboot to activate the software.

Some versions of the software require you to create a cache partition--a segment of unallocated disk space. SCSI Express uses this cache partition to cache information about the CD-ROMs in your jukebox. One of my standalone 4GB SCSI disks had a large chunk of unallocated space, so I created a 2GB cache partition on that disk.

Using SCSI Express
You can use SCSI Express interactively via a Control Panel applet that lets you change the software's operating characteristics. The Control Panel applet lets you view the software's properties, assign and delete cache partitions, configure automatic CD-ROM sharing, configure jukebox operations, and create CD-ROM collections.

The software's automatic sharing feature detects new CD-ROMs and automatically shares the CD-ROM over your network. You can configure the product to assign set security permissions to each new share and to limit the number of users that can connect to the share.

If your company is large with many CD-ROMs to share, you'll want to activate the software's collections feature. The collections feature groups CD-ROMs alphabetically. Thus, all your CD-ROMs beginning with A will appear in the A collection. For smaller CD-ROM collections, this feature offers organizational simplicity, but little else.

SCSI Express has extensive jukebox configuration capabilities. The software features I/O Capacity, which sets the maximum number of I/O operations (as measured in KB) for one job, after which the job is put on hold so another job can process. Another feature is Idle Time, which indicates the maximum time (in seconds) a disk can be idle before a waiting job takes control. The final feature is Home Wait, which is the maximum time (in minutes) a job can have a disk in the system when no other jobs are waiting. Screen 1 shows a sample jukebox configuration.

You can manage your SCSI subsystem using the software's GUI, SCSI Express Inspector. The SCSI Express Inspector uses a Windows Explorer-like interface to let you drill down through the various SCSI controllers on your system and examine their properties and configurations. The window's left pane is a tree view of your SCSI host adapters. You expand the SCSI host adapter view by clicking the + next to the host adapter. A list of devices connected to that host adapter appears. When you click a device, information about that device appears in the right pane.

Although the price is reasonable, I didn't see much value in SCSI Express. The lack of direction about what the product is supposed to let you do is reason enough to stay away for now.

SCSI Express
Contact: Micro Design International * 407-677-8333
Web: http://www.mdi.com
Price: $395
System Requirements: Windows NT, SCSI Express