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Got a call from Dell\EqualLogic advising to upgrade to firmware 5.0.2

Classy organization. I appreciate the effort to help us stay on top of things!

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iMplementing iLinx Capture – Part 2 Batch Profile

So, to recap. Configure an input source, configure a profile, the input source categorizes an image(s) into a Batch Profile. (This is my simplistic understanding)

Once the images are in the batch profile they need to be ‘indexed’. I believe that ‘indexing’ is what assigns them to a document type.

So, right click, create new batch profile. Then you will need to place a start.

In our case this first thing we needed to do was remove any blank pages. So click the QSX button, and choose the ILINX Cleanup.

Use the line tool to draw a path from the start to the ILINX Cleanup. To configure the Cleanup you simply need to right click on it and then choose configure.

In this example the remove border is checked as well as the delete blank batch pages. The 1500 bytes setting determines what is considered a blank page.

The next process is to do the barcode separation. This post http://ecmtechnicalsupport.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/barcode-document-separation-with-ilinx-capture/ covers some of the options.

In our case we only really have one ‘type’ of document, our incoming vendor invoice. Unfortunately this doc is routed all over crime and creation. So lets add the ILINX Barcode QSX and then configure it.

So this Tab does a few things. It enables document separation. It detects barcodes of the 3 of 9 flavor, it deletes what it determines are separator pages, and it uses a prefix (In our Case NFFC-) and assigns that to be the AP Doc document type. By using the Prefix other barcodes that don’t have the prefix will be ignored (so it won’t try separate on a vendors barcode for example)

As I mentioned earlier, we want to use the barcode to determine the ‘route’ an invoice would take. Inside of our ‘AP Doc’ document we have a Picklist configured with various routes: for example Sales, IT, Accounting etc… so then our trusty ImageSource consultant helped us configure the Barcode Recognition so that the Route read from the barcode would be inserted into the Route picklist field of our ‘AP Doc’. So, on the Barcode Recognition tab:

This screen allows you access to both Batch fields as well as document fields. To configure them you simply double click on the field value you want to set. i.e. in our case double click Route which brings up this configuration screen. We choose the map by barcode number, so we set a 1 for it to process the first barcode that it encounters, then we set the Prefix Filter and check the checkbox to remove the prefix from the barcode value (since our route is named IT and not NFFC-IT)

To create barcode sheets is pretty easy, download yourself a free 3 of 9 font, install it, open up wordpad type your barcode value surrounded by asterisks in all CAPS. For example

*NFFC-ACCOUNTING*

Then select the text you typed and change the font Code 3 of 9. If you have a barcode scanning gun you can scan it to make sure it reads, or print it and then scan it and use the ‘Test’ button on the Barcode Recognition tab screen, and then select your type and image to see if it can read your barcode.

So that’s about it for barcodes. (Well there are many things you can do with them, but this is one configuration) I will cover some more topics next time, until then happy ECM trails.

Implementing iLinx Capture

As I mentioned in a previous post, we have had the fun of playing with the software ” Lego’s ” that makes up a large portion of iLinx Capture. At the heart of the matter you have the ILINX Server. This is a nice scalable service which allows you to process your image files.

The Hierarchy goes something like this. Configure an Input Source: an input source monitors a directory and upon finding a matching file type will pass that on to the assigned Batch. The Input Sources are configured after clicking on a server group, and then a corresponding server.

In order to assign a Batch though, you need to have added the batch to your ‘Profiles’ (On the right)

To configure the import just set a Polling Folder, Archive Folder, and Exception Folder. Then use the familiar *.tif wildcard and assign these incoming images to the AP Batch.

Now that the formalities of getting images in has been taken care of, what next? Pull out your Lego’s cause this is where you can go crazy 🙂 Under Batch Profiles, you can configure what will next happen to your image. In my next post I will delve in deeper for how we ended up configuring this. But at a conceptual level, after experimenting with various methods of separating out our invoices we decided to go with barcode separator sheets. From simplest to most complex some of the options are

1) Have a button assigned to each route, and press a button to scan each separate ‘document’ – The most simple approach possible, negating the need for any type of separator sheet. Cons: This can turn into a large amount of button pressing as well as requiring a lot of ‘babysitting time’ and does not allow for high volume tasks.

2) Have a button assigned to each route, use separator page(s) within the batch to mark the beginning of a new ‘document’. Pros: Once again,  very easy to understand and implement. Cons: This scenario could easily end up creating a large amount of scanto buttons. This approach requires a medium amount of ‘babysitting’ since you have to wait between different routes. This approach also requires pre sorting of documents into their specific routes.

3) Have a single button for the Invoices. Use barcode sheets to identify the beginning of a document and what route it should be assigned. Pros: Allows you to batch up document imaging and handle higher volumes (Less babysitting, more automation). Allows you to mix and match document types. Cons: Slightly more technically difficult to implement, maybe harder for users to understand, could end up with a lot of different barcode sheets. Need to trust the scanner more (needs to have robust feeding mechanism as well as excellent double feed detection)

With always the goal of having a higher degree of automation we choose to go the barcode sheet method. Our users have actually found this method to be fairly easy to understand. We had a lot of fun creating the various barcode sheets. (We gave them unique border colors as well as easily identifiable images) These sheets are also printed on legal paper and then trimmed to where they are still an inch or so longer than regular paper to allow them to be pulled back out easily.

Our CIO hasn’t noticed yet but we used his effigy (with a barcode across his forehead, of course) to indicate an IT invoice (He is our fearless leader)

You can imagine some of the fun we have had with some of the others! One other thing to note, I would think using a barcode prefix would be considered ‘best practice’ otherwise you might end up splitting a document off of some random vendor barcode which is not the desired behavior.

Well, that’s enough for today. Until next time, happy ECM trails.

Initial ECM considerations, ImageSource

ECM (Enterprise Content Management) is a really interesting topic. And it means different things to different folks. After getting our feet wet, so far I have a few thoughts.

Go with a product that is flexible enough to allow for growth. We are always looking for products that integrate well with our existing systems. Maybe it is a call back to our Lego days, but we really enjoy products that are in reality just very flexible multi tools. Be careful about anything proprietary that is developed for you. Be very clear about who will own the source code. I consider this a crucial part in order to remain flexible and control your own destiny.

Image Capture

If you are going to be doing some form of image capture then a scanner is the gateway into your ECM system (duh). It is also quite possibly the most ‘visible’ part of the install. As such the scanner needs to be rock solid. So, grab yourself some real source documents and give them and the scanner to the person responsible for scanning and get their feedback quick! Start testing various scanners early in the process to help guarantee scanning success.

Some things to research,

How will you be separating ‘documents’, for example multipage invoices. A computer can’t tell where one invoice ends and another begins. The most simple method is to press a button for each single page or multipage document. With in volume this process will grow old, quickly. You can use separator pages. You can use barcode identification sheets. Or if you have a lot of money to burn I would suspect you could use OCR to separate the documents.

Another thing to research (for a month or two, collect some statistics) what types of documents will you be scanning. For example, single sided versus double (or simplex versus duplex in scanner lingo), different sized paper, color versus black and white, thin versus thick. And also, the ratio of single versus multipage docs.

ImageSource has an intriguing product called iLinx Capture which allows you to visually ‘program’ out your workflows. This meets our objectives of having a product that allows you to grow with it as well as the cool ‘Lego effect’ of being able to snap things together. They also allow you to program your own ‘QSX’ modules (they supply VB6 examples). Hopefully soon they will also provide .net example files as part of the iLinx Capture install! This is a really fun product to use and I will be writing a few posts on how we ended up implementing it!

Happy ECM trails…

Next post here https://michaelellerbeck.com/2010/10/11/implementing-ilinx-capture/

Another awesomesauce equallogic conference #eqlconf

To pull off two really amazing conferences in a row is a wonderful indication of the attention to detail that Dell is taking with EqualLogic. Here is my first conference review

https://michaelellerbeck.com/2010/03/05/dell-equallogic-conference-review-in-short-awesome/

And now on to a review of the second conference. I’ll start with the bad. The weather. What is up with flying to San Diego and getting worse weather than in Seattle…

Thoughts\insights\advice I had\recieved during the sessions in no particular order.

Replication. Replication is a tricky subject. Some good advice I received: If possible use an applications native syncing\replication first before attempting an array replication. Some examples, use exchange 2010 DAG, and for SQL use Log Shipping. These applications will know exactly what data has changed in replicate it probably in the most efficient manner.

Riverbed seems to be (possibly) the replication box of choice (this is base entirely on feel, and no hard facts) they are probably also the most proud of their boxes….

Getting the network right is still probably the most complicated part of setting up your EqualLogic. Jumbo frames should be enabled after they are found to be needed (I seem to remember 4k Iops being thrown out there). Stacking is definitely recommended, I would also recommend testing out your switch failure as part of your install. New firmware for the powerconnect should improve the failover rate, as well as in the future being able to do a rolling update of the switches! (One of the main reasons people don’t like stacking I hear) also setting up two stacks and then LAGing them together is an interesting option.

But, pay close attention to your networking setup. It can make or break your EqualLogic install!

Another topic of interest was the three different ways you can attach to your EqualLogic storage (in reference to vmware) Basically, it really comes down to choosing your approach. For example, if you go the iScsi initiator from within your vm you get to take advantage of the really great EqualLogic snapshot\VSS tools for exchange, filesystems, and sql. In the case of a DR situation though, it makes things a little more complicated because you will need to make sure that the volumes that initiator is connecting too has been replicated.

A ‘normal’ vmfs volume has the advantage of being self contained (but is limited to the 2TB vmfs limit) I like this method because then I can use Veeam for my backup. Speaking of Veeam, I really hope that someday that there will some integration between Veeam and EqualLogic. This would involve scripting vsphere to take a snapshot, then the equalLogic to take a snapshot, then alter the ACL of that snapshot so the veeam box can access it, rescan, connect to the snapshot volume and then proceed with the backup! This would be a very nice method! Please, please, pretty please! Veeam and EqualLogic!

The VDI sessions are always intriguing! Virtual desktops are definitely in the future… someday when we can afford them!

SSD sessions are interesting, would love to dump our ERP database on it and take it for a spin. They also talked about putting tempdb on its on RAID 10 volume… hmmm I wonder how much that would help our environment.

All in all, a really great conference! Good speakers, great to have engineers there listening to our ideas (even better, they actually implement some of them)

Some of my recent ease of use complaints were neatly addressed during the NDA session. All I can say is, I’m glad we got on the EqualLogic train, cause it’s full steam ahead.

The dinner on the USS Midway was epic (what a great place for a bunch of geeks to totally geek out! everyone was walking around in reverence)

A tweetout from Michael Dell to all of the social media folks attending #eqlconf was entirely unexpected and greatly appreciated!

 

 

EqualLogic, why I haven’t blogged about it lately

Well, first off I’ve been fairly busy with an ECM project (many posts forthcoming). Of course all of the images are going to go onto our 30TB equallogic ‘SUMO’ but the real reason… The equallogic just works… thats it, it just works like it should, day in and day out.

I do have some work planned. I need to upgrade to the latest and greatest of vsphere, upgrade to the 5.0.2 firmware (I’m really looking forward to the offloading of the snapshots to the SAN!!) and then I need to get the MEM equallogic pluging working (I hear promises of 10-15% speed increase!) so I have plenty to do in the future! Oh as well as I can’t wait to get the new version of Veeam installed!

So there!