LM_NET: Library Media Networking

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LM netters, the networking of cdroms seems to be a sustainable topic on this
list.  What follows is the summary posting I made to CDROMLAN list about
using Digital's Infoserver Librarian 1000 on a school VAX distributed network.
This message will be of interest only to those who work with VAXes, but for
those folks it might be a useful resource.

The contents are self explanatory.
 -1993 20:22:54.24
To:     IN%"cdromlan@idbsu.bitnet",IN%"werner@mfc.panum.ku.dk",FKARAS,ASTEINMAN,
Subj:   DEC Infoserver 1000 query summary of 7 responses.  thanks...bill

On September 29, I posted a blind message to CDROMLAN requesting information
about DEC's Infoserver 1000.  I received 7 replies, which are summarized
here.  Thanks to all seven respondents for your contributions.  This product
seems to get rave reviews from several continents.  It's the price that seems a
problem here in Canada.

One interesting aside.  It would appear that some vendors are beginning to
monitor some of the product oriented listservers.  A couple of days after
my posting, I got a telephone call from a vendor in California who had a
competing product, based on the Meridian Tower.  We had a nice chat, and
he was quite helpful, and we concluded that it wasn't likely we would be
doing business together, because of the problems associated with cross
border trade.  I salute his observatory diligence!  He is probably reading
this, just like you are.  Thanks CDROMLAN, for your help...

----------------------------cut here--------------------------
My original posting...

 -1993 21:19:48.97
To:     IN%"cdromlan@idbsu.bitnet"
Subj:   Digital's Infoserver Librarian 1000

I am not currently a subscriber to CDROMLAN (although I was a couple of
years ago), but I am sending this blind query in hopes of getting some
insight.  Please respond to BHanson@CBE.AB.CA, not the list.  If
I get significant response, I will repost it to the list.

We are going to be looking at DEC's Infoserver 1000 CDROM server to be
mounted on our VAX 4200 distributed building level WAN.  The vendor's
bumpf makes some remarkable claims.  Modular addition of simultaneous
users in 50 user increments, up to 7 CDROM's available for simultaneous
use, substitution of hard drives or tapes for CDROMs, makes fresh
coffee and pizza on demand, are some of the claims.

Have any of you good folks had experience with this product?  Got any
good questions to ask the vendor?  They indicate that this package is
only $18,000 cdn +GST.  There is a subtle internal pressure to lean
towards the product as our school is partnered with the marketing arm
of Digital Canada.

Please respond to me directly, as I am not a CDROMLAN subscriber.
Thanks for your help
Bill Hanson
William Aberhart High School
Calgary, Alberta
-----------------------------cut here-------------------------
The replies...

From:   IN%"hartb@beryl.ucq.edu.au" 29-SEP-1993 22:23:49.23
To:     IN%"bhanson@CBE.AB.CA"
Subj:   Infoserver Librarian

        Hi Bill,
                We have ordered 1 Infoserver 1000 Librarian not due for
about another month. It was favoured primarily because  it has Ultrix client
software which enables the IS drives  to be mounted via our Ultrix file server.
   This  enables our remote campuses access to the CDs via the file server.
   No CDnet solution allows TCP/IP access direct.
   If all works well we will buy some more next year. We will be looking to
buy future IS 1000s with no drives and mount some 3rd party fast drives but
we will have to test first.
   I am surprised at your figure of $18k. Ours cost $12.5k Aus. with
7 drives, 100 licence, Dos, Mac and Ultrix client software.
 Aus $ is worth 65c US.

I may be of more help when ours turns up


Bruce Hart
University of Central Queensland

From:   IN%"NELSON@mc.maricopa.edu"  "Carl Nelson, Computer Operator I" 30-SEP-1
 3 17:08:38.61
To:     IN%"BHanson@CBE.AB.CA"
Subj:   RE: Digital's Infoserver Librarian 1000


  We have been using the Infoserver line for serving CD-ROM's and disk
partitions to PC's since slightly before the capability was a Digital product.
We have three Infoservers now. Our first system was a model 100 with eight
CD-ROM drives and the internal 250 MB disk, the second was a model 150 with
another eight drives and 250 MB disk, and the third was a 1000 with two CD-ROM
drives and a 1.6 GB disk drive. We have been quite happy with these systems.
They are rock-steady reliable, fast, and quite as versatile as DEC claims them
to be.

  The first two systems we used to serve CD-ROM's to nine (now eleven) PC's in
our Library. The search engine software disk and spill disks are actually
partitions served by the Infoservers to the diskless workstations in the
library. These systems do NOT crash, period. The only time that they have any
down time at all is when we have a power outage, rearrange the room, or upgrade
the system software. We have used these systems to serve a special training
session for the U.S. Census Bureau with 38 workstations using 4 CD-ROM products
simultaniously. There was no appreciable slowdown from 1 user to the full 38

  The third Infoserver (the model 1000) we purchased recently to serve a lab
building which has 330 computers of various flavors, 92 of which are networked.
Currently only 20 of the workstations use the Infoserver, mainly to run
Microsoft Windows v3.1 and a couple of minor applications, however we expect to
be adding 30 systems to that by the end of the semester. By the beginning of
the fall 94 semester I expect to have 150 systems using the Infoserver for
application and system software. We will be serving both Pathworks and Netware
systems by the end of this semester.

  I can heartily recommend the Infoserver system as a solid system. Our use has
gained us many inquiries and tours of the facilities that make use of the
Infoserver's capabilities. While much of what was of interest was in HOW we
were using the Infoserver, we would not been able to perform half the magic
that we did without such a stable base to build upon.

  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at all.


Carl Q. Nelson
System DemiGod (O.K. -- Computer Operator II)

Mesa Community College
1833 W. Southern Ave.
Mesa, Azirona 85202

Phone:  (602) 461-7490
Fax:    (602) 461-7806
Beeper: (602) 271-6589


From:   IN%"hrood@tenet.edu"  "Harriet A. Rood" 30-SEP-1993 17:48:13.32
Subj:   RE: Digital's Infoserver Librarian 1000

Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT
MIME-version: 1.0

     We just installed a DECnet with a VAX 4000 and an Inforserver.  At
present we only have four drives three of which are in use (we are waiting
for delivery of the 4th cd).  We have 35 pc's and 25 MACs on our system.
At present all but two of the PC's have the cd's running (we just don't
use them on the other two).  We have not had all 33 accessing the CD/ROMs
at the same time yet, but have experienced no slow downs yet.  Our MAS,
which we had on a stand alone 386 last year and which ran like a turtle,
is flying now.  Our network manager, who is learning as he goes, loaded
the search software for the cdroms on each pc which he says is the reason
it is speeding up.
     I don't know if any of my ramblings helped....hope so.
             * Harriet Rood                                        *
             * Head Librarian              (210)  423-6006 ext 530 *
             * Marine Military Academy      FAX   (210) 423-7716   *
             * 320 Iwo Jima Blvd.           hrood@tenet.edu        *
             * Harlingen, TX 78550                                 *
      A college prep school..Education, Structure, Leadership & Discipline
                                 " Semper Fi"

From:   IN%"britten@utklib.lib.utk.edu"  1-OCT-1993 14:23:33.88
To:     IN%"bhanson@CBE.AB.CA"
CC:     IN%"britten@utklib.lib.utk.edu"
Subj:   RE: Digital's Infoserver Librarian 1000

Bill -

We have 4 Infoserver 150's and 2 1000's, with a total of 60+ cd drives being
served campus-wide.  They are fabulous products .... ours have been serving
cd's for 1.5 years with not one minute downtime, great response time even with
10 users on a single cd.

Not necessary to connect it to a vax, especially if you are using dos-based
products.  No need for a network os either.  We just plug into the campus
ethernet, load the Infoserver dos client on the pc (must have an ethernet
card, of course), and the pc can talk to the Infoserver.  There is also a Mac
client that we have tried, but most of our cd's our dos-based.

The 150's come with a 120mb hard drive that can be partitioned for DOS, Mac,
and VMS. The single hard drive can have be partitioned for all three
platforms, and can serve all three simultaneously.  I load all the search
software on the hard drive, and a menu program, so folks from all over campus
access menu, software, and cdrom disc over the network.  The 1000's do not
normally come with hard drive, so if you want a file server option, buy at
least one 150 with a hard drive.

We also have a 4GB DAT tape unit on the Infoserver, which we use to
back up our vax.  Soon the dos client will have hooks for Norton backup, so we
could do network-wide backup of pc's.

One favorite feature of mine is the RAM cache.  The 1000 comes with 4mb, or
you can increase to 32mb.  Stats show that the Infoserver satisfies 70% of
requests to the cd's from the RAM.  That's how they keep response time up with
simultaneous users .... the RAM cache is doing it.  Because of the cache,
response time over the net is actually faster than a cddrive attached directly
to the pc!

glad to provide more info ...

Bill Britten
U of Tennesee Libraries
From:   IN%"george@rankin.lib.umt.edu"  "george@rankin.lib.umt.edu"  2-OCT-1993
CC:     IN%"george@rankin.lib.umt.edu"
Subj:   RE: Digital's Infoserver Librarian 1000

Hi William,

Sorry to be replying so late, but the week has not gone well (the
InfoServers continue to run without a glitch, though).  Well, what
can I say about them?!  I have 4 IS-150's, and just received 2
of the newer IS-1000's.  I have each 150 hooked up to a 5 and 7
drive CD-ROM tower populated with Toshiba XM3301 drives.  I have
each 1000 in the same 8-drive tower with Toshiba XM3401 drives.
I purchased these towers from CD-ROM, Inc., in Colorado and the
drives from another vendor.  Essentially they're the same as the
Infoserver Librarian tower (built by Virtual Microsystems in
California), except that it's not quite as expensive, doesn't have
'hot swap' capabilities, and I have to run the cables into the back
of the unit.

Since I am the library computer manager, and this was all bought
with grant money, and I can diagnose and change CD-drives, I thought
this was a better and cheaper solution.  Our use now for these
systems is exclusively DOS based CD's to our PC's, but if anyone
on campus loaded the LAD drivers via DECNET (TCP/IP Pathworks is
incompatible), they could run them as well.  I can't say enough good
things about these machines for running CD's.  I wouldn't put tape
drives on them though, too slow for writing to a unit off of an
InfoServer, but extremely fast for reading!  I haven't put any hard
disks on them, but would see no problem with it.  Our computer
center has an older IS-100, they use for the VAX Consolidated
Distribution CD's and for MOP loading DECServer 200 and 300's (for
that, you can't beat their speed).  I am an Ultrix shop, though and
have loaded the InfoServer Client for Ultrix software.  The new
1.1? version allows for more than 7 cd's to be loaded at one time.

If you have specific questions, please email or call.  George
George Yobst, Automation Specialist           Internet:
Mansfield Library                              GEORGE@RANKIN.LIB.UMT.EDU
University of Montana  Phone: (406) 243-2539  MUSENET:
Missoula, MT 59812     FAX:   (406) 243-2060   RANKIN::GEORGE
"...it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn
 what he thinks he already knows."  - Epictetus

From:   IN%"werner@mfc.panum.ku.dk"  5-OCT-1993 09:20:57.42
To:     IN%"IN::'bhanson@cbe.ab.ca'@danpost.uni-c.dk"
CC:     IN%"WERNER@danpost.uni-c.dk"
Subj:   InfoServer

Hello Bill Hanson,

After sending a message to the CDROM list I found your request in my mailbox
covering at least some of the same area, namely the InfoServer 1000. Did you
get any responses ? If so could you share the replies with me ?

I would like to get in contact with sites/people who use the InfoServer in
order to learn from them, good or bad as we are evaluating a solution based
on this box.

*  N. Werner Mortensen          Phone:    +45 3532 7520                  *
*  University of Copenhagen     Fax:      +45 3532 7537                  *
*  Blegdamsvej 3                e-mail:   werner@mfc.panum.ku.dk         *
*  DK-2200 Copenhagen N         X.25:     238301043056::werner (DEC PSI) *
*  Denmark                      DECnet:   52482::werner                  *
From:   IN%"KAMBITSCH@Butler.EDU"  "Tim Kambitsch, Butler University Libraries"
 -OCT-1993 09:15:01.60
To:     IN%"cdromlan%idbsu.bitnet@RUTH.BUTLER.EDU"
CC:     IN%"BHanson@CBE.AB.CA"
Subj:   Digital's Infoserver Librarian 1000

I missed (ignored?) the query from BHanson@CBE.AB.CA about DEC InfoServer's
as a CD-ROM server.  I'd like to make a few comments on the topic:

First the rave reviews as to being solid, fast and reliable are true.  We've
had a IS-150 running for over a year, and the only troubles we have ever had
were due to my tinkering with the box.  I finally got around to rebooting it
after six months just to see what would happen. (It came back in a few
minutes just fine.)

Before going out and buying one of these things, I would consider what your
long term plans might be for accessing your CD-ROMs from end users workstations
such as from faculty offices or student labs.  I suggest this because:

- The DEC Infoserver is _not_ a file server.  Unless you create disk partitions
for each workstation you'll likely need to install the search software on
individual workstations. This may not be too bad if you only have a limited
number of workstations in the library and you don't or won't have a link
to a campus LAN.

Of course you could use a File Server (e.g. Novell) to centrally mount and
maintain a single copy of each search engine and any menuing software. That
is what I do right now.  The Library uses one of our lab Novell servers to
serve up the search engine and menuing software. But this leads to a another
set of issues.

- The DEC Inforserver requires its own set of drivers on the client workstation.
We have nearly 1000 workstations that could access our CD-ROMs.  I have a
licensed both the DOS and Mac clients for distribution around campus, but I
cannot see doing so becuase of all the support that would require.  The Mac
client is certainly easier to distrubute, but in the "uncontrolled" environment
of faculty workstations, I cannot imagine supporting even a limited number
of users.

- The DEC Inforserver drivers do nothing about MSCDEX.  Add the memory
requirements of MSCDEX to the 30K of memory required for DEC Infoserver drivers,
and finding enough free memory for programs is difficult enough.  If faculty
and labs have TCP, Novell other TSRs installed you might as well forget it.

That is what makes a SCSI Express type solution so appealling.  If a user can
get to a Novell server, they can access the CD-ROM software and data disks
like any other application (At least that's what MDI leads one to believe ;-)

I really don't want to make an investment in a Novell Server, both in terms
of financial resources and the time required to manage the server. I wish
there was an NLM for our Novell server that would eliminate the need for
DEC's drivers on the workstation and MSCEDX, but still use the Inforserver
for all the things it does very well.  That would allow CD-ROM based services
to join the "mainstrean" of services avialable on campus.

Tim Kambitsch                        INTERNET: kambitsch@butler.edu
Butler University Libaries             BITNET: kambitsch@butleru.bitnet

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