For my review of DiscPort Executive, Microtest supplied a CD-ROM server system. Microtest offers this system as part of a turnkey DiscPort Executive solution.

Logicraft manufactures this CD-ROM server, which impressed me the moment I opened the shipping crate and looked inside. To begin with, the Logicraft system does not look like a standard PC-tower system. The system features a hinged, lockable door that limits access to the CD-ROM drive array. Additionally, all the usual system connections (monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc.) are located on the top of the unit hidden underneath a lift-off metal top. Once you configure the unit, you can close it, put it in a convenient location, and ignore it.

As impressive as the cabinetry is, I was even more impressed when I opened the front door and saw a hot-dockable 2GB SCSI disk drive and an array of 13 hot-dockable 12X SCSI CD-ROM drives. The system also includes a 166MHz Pentium processor and 64MB of RAM­a reasonable Windows NT Server system for a network-sharing application. The system had NT Server and DiscPort Executive preinstalled.

Why would you need a system with so many CD-ROM drives? One reason is to handle a large volume of information: Thirteen CD-ROMs let you access more than 8GB of online data. Of course, you still must deal with how to partition your data across multiple CD-ROMs, because you can't organize the data as if it were one 8GB database. But once you master the data distribution problem, you have a very economical solution for data delivery.

Another reason to implement a CD-ROM server is to control the location of your CD-ROMs and to make sure that everyone can access them. For example, here in the Lab, we continually misplace the CD-ROMs that contain NT Workstation, NT Server, Service Pack 3, and other key BackOffice products. If the Lab implemented a CD-ROM server, the Lab Guys could access CD-ROMs anytime over the network.

DiscPort Executive's ability to mount foreign (non-NT) CD-ROM formats is also a key benefit in many networks. By offering NT, UNIX, and Mac CD-ROM volumes from a single server, you can centralize the CD-ROM access needs of the majority of your users. This alternative is far better than implementing a CD-ROM server system for each type of system in your network.

Of course, using DiscPort Executive to drive a CD-ROM server is only one way of deploying the software. DiscPort Executive is also capable of managing CD-ROMs distributed throughout your network­you can have 13 systems with one CD-ROM drive instead of one system with 13 CD-ROM drives. But for most of us, centralization is good.