Point Jukebox Manager v3.1

Category: data jukebox management software Name of tool: Point Jukebox Manager v3.1 Company name: Point Software

and Systems Price: depends on jukebox, generally starts around $3,500 URL: www.pointsoft.de Windows platforms supported: NT (64 MB of RAM, 200 MHz Pentium system or better recommended, with SP6) Quick Description: Powerful software to organize and share DVD-RAM and data CDs around your network.

Strom-meter:
** = A tad shaky to install and use but has some value.

Key features:

Pros:
Controls a wide variety of optical jukeboxes
Software is relatively easy to install and configure

Cons:
Need to understand NT SCSI drivers and how NT deals with SCSI storage to be able to configure software properly
Bug that isn't well documented to deal with mixed media formats (see below)
Pricey

Description:

If you have tons of files lying around on your network servers, perhaps it is time you considered an optical jukebox to free up some of your disk space. While disk drive prices continue to drop as capacity continues to climb, an optical jukebox makes sense if you want to make archives of your mission critical enterprise data and be able to remove them off site. Optical storage is also a good deal if you don't always need to get quick access to many of your files. Or if you have lots of large graphics, databases, and other storage hogs taking up room on your servers but these files aren't in daily demand.

The jukebox is a robotic device that keeps several dozen optical media (CD-ROM, CD-R, or DVD-RAM) stored in shelves, just like something that plays audio recordings in your local bar. The only difference is that you store data, not audio CDs, and it doesn't usually come with any flashing lights or a coin box. When someone wants a file on one of these optical discs, the robot arm moves it from a storage shelf into a drive bay and shares the data out to your network. This way, you can keep gigabytes of data in what is called near-line storage -- not quite as fast as online as with a standard hard disk, but close enough that you can retrieve the file within a half a minute or so.

If you don't mind the wait, this could be a very worthwhile investment for an enterprise. An optical jukebox makes a lot of sense if you have a network of users because the devices are expensive and a network can distribute the cost among more people. They can run upwards of $10,000 to $20,000, depending on the number of shelves and drives and whether you want just CDs or DVDs as well.

But the jukebox isn't the entire story here: you also need some software called a jukebox manager. Which software product you pick will determine--among other things � how manageable your library is, how your network administrators set up sharedddirectories, AND whether you can fill your jukebox with CD-Rs, ordinary CD-ROMs, or DVDs.

The manager augments the activities of a standard NT file server. Why can't NT just do the job all by its lonesome? Well, because NT isn't very good at dealing with CD and DVD file formats, and you also want to be able to set up individual network shares that point to particular discs. That's where the management software comes in handy.

I looked at several different jukebox management tools and really liked what Point Software and Systems of Siegen, Germany is doing. Their software was the easiest to setup and operate, and worked well on a number of jukeboxes that I had in my office for testing. It was less fussy than other management tools in how NT was configured, and how the jukebox was attached to my NT server. Most jukeboxes use some kind of SCSI connector for the optical drives, and sometimes use a serial connector to control the robotics. Even though the company is based in Europe, I had excellent support and help from people both in Germany and their representatives here in the States, with a fast turnaround on my questions.

I needed this help, too. In order to get Point's software to recognize a mixture of DVD and CD discs in my jukebox, I needed to delete a registry key in my NT server. This is a bug. Otherwise, the jukebox manager wouldn't be able to read the various CD formats in jukeboxes that just had DVD drives. (DVD drives can read data CDs, if everything else is working properly.) This is a good example of the level of detail you'll need to dig into to get these jukebox products working, and also the level of software immaturity.

Still, Point's software is worth looking at if you intend to get involved in optical jukebox storage devices. It is somewhat pricey, but can save you money if you have huge storage needs and want to leverage using your jukebox across your network.

Strom-meter key:
**** = Very cool, very useful
*** = Hey, not bad. One notch below very cool
** = A tad shaky to install and use but has some value.
* = Don't waste your time. Minimal real value.

Bio: David Strom is president of his own consulting firm in Port Washington, NY. He has tested hundreds of computer products over the past two decades working as a computer journalist, consultant, and corporate IT manager. Since 1995 he has written a weekly series of essays on web technologies and marketing called Web Informant. You can send him email at david@strom.com.


This was first published in December 2000

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