For those of you who don’t know me, I should probably start with a quick introduction. My name is Scott Lefton and I’m Sales Engineer with AccessData. For almost 10 years I’ve been in Litigation Support, some folks call me a “Summation Old-Timer”. My career started as an IT Administrator for a mid-sized firm based in Los Angeles; Epstein, Turner & Weiss. At ETW I worked closely with the litigators from case complaint to trial. After a few years at ETW, I moved over to the vendor side and worked for Merrill Corp. as a trial Consultant. At Merrill I began to work with many different firms throughout California, focusing on the Trial Presentation, software training, and general litigation support. Around 2008 I moved back to my hometown, St. Louis (GO CARDS!!!) and continued to work as a trial consultant and software trainer for Midwest Litigation and in 2010 I began to work for AccessData. I have worked on over 100 trials with veteran trial attorneys all over the county and with some of the nation’s largest firms, in addition to trial consulting I’ve been a Summation Trainer and a TrialDirector trainer since 2006. Trust me when I say, I know what it’s like to be on the front lines of litigation support and what you guys and gals go through on a day-to-day basis, I’ve lived and breathed it from all sides.
I’d like to cover the Summation products and what it takes from a hardware perspective to be successful running them. We have literally been inundated with requests to discuss the new Summation architecture and hardware specs, so I thought it would be a good idea to try to shed a little light on this topic. In this post we will cover the architecture for both Summation Express and Summation Pro, which is are equivalent business tools (same features and functions), but have been tuned for small and large groups of clients respectively.
Summation (Express and Pro) is now a web based application, and there’s no longer a so-called ‘network client’ to install. End-users simply log into the Summation via their web-browser, the only software requirement on the end-user side is the near-native viewer and MS Silverlight. This is a night-and-day change from the iBlaze architecture that many of us are familiar with. So what does this mean? It means that NO processing, necessarily, needs to occurs on the end-user workstation (more on that later)!!! Gone are the days when you tried to OCR a large batch of docs that took days and days and then performed the database triple-lindy called, check, pack & blaze, OCR the next batch, and repeat… Or trying to create a large browser-briefcase, or loading a giant DII that would take the entire day. All processing can now occur on a Summation Pro server.
I also want to point out some additional benefits of the new web-based solution. For one, Summation is now much easier to use and intuitive, we’ve greatly streamlined the feature set. One of the biggest challenges for me as a Summation trainer was sorting out all of the different ways to accomplish a single task. Secondly, you are much better prepared for collaboration. For example, if you have co-counsel, or an expert witness, or your firm has multiple offices; getting everyone access to the case data is now just a matter of setting them up with user credentials, and providing access to Summation web address.
Lastly I think it’s very important to note that the new architecture is FLEXIBLE! You can start out small, say with a single server and build out the system over time as you organization and needs grow, adding additional hardware to the system.
The power of MS SQL
We now have true relational and enterprise-class database infrastructure. SQL now offers Summation users, faster searching, faster bulk-coding, fail-over clustering, and high-availability, basically with SQL you will see increased performance in almost every aspect. A common question I hear from clients is will I need SQL DBA to run this? The answer is NO. You will not need a full-time SQL DBA in order to maintain Summation. Almost everything from a Database Admin standpoint can be done directly thru the Summation management console and at no time do you need to manipulate SQL itself.
After reading the sections above you may be asking yourself, “We’ll that’s great but we don’t have that many users and/or I use a Mobile iBlaze license today. How’s this new web-based architecture going to affect me?” This is where Summation Express comes into play.
Summation Express is designed to be installed either on a Server or a contemporary laptop. If you install Express on a laptop, that laptop can support all the work of a single user, just as iBlaze does today, only now you have a modern interface and much more powerful processing engine when called upon. Having Summation Express installed on a server is ideal for supporting a small concurrent user pool of 1-3 users who require case collaboration. Summation Express is literally identical to Summation Pro is terms of features. Your operating system for the laptop or server can be Win7 or Server2008 R2 and it requires IIS or IIS Express. All components for Summation Express to run properly will be installed locally on the laptop or the server. Mobile users, have NO FEAR. You can absolutely be successful running Express on a laptop. Ideally you want a laptop with at least 4-8 cores and 8-16 GBs of RAM. We had a number of laptops at LegalTech all running Summation locally, and I thought performance was pretty good using a laptop with i5 dual cores, and 4 GBs of RAM.
Summation Pro Hardware
Spec’ing out a Summation Pro system really comes down to two variables, 1) how many concurrent users you will have in the system at one time, and 2) what sort of data volumes are you looking to process. If your firm is not processing large sets of data, you don’t need a tremendous volume of hardware. A firm with a 5-10 concurrent user pool, will do just fine with a single server setup. If routine processing of larger data volumes (+5GB) is a requirement, this is a scenario where an additional server would be beneficial. Another option with a single-server setup, where routine processing of evidence is a requirement, is simply to kick off that job at night or during low-usage hours.
A Multiple Server Setup – Each component of Summation Pro can be installed on dedicated hardware. Most setups I think will range from a single server, to a three-server setup. A two box setup would consist of a dedicated webserver and processing working, and a dedicated MS SQL server. A three box setup would consist of: Box 1 – a dedicated webserver solely running the web server, Box2 – a dedicated processing worker, and Box 3 – a dedicated MS SQL server.
Virtualization seems to come up in every conversation these days. Here is the current status on Summation and virtualization. We don’t recommend customers use VM’s for Summation. We advise clients to use dedicated physical hardware, when appropriate. That said, virtualization is NOT totally out of the question. Some clients simply have no choice when the IT department mandates the use of a virtualized environment. In this scenario we will do everything we can to support you if you choose to use VM’s for your Summation setup. In fact we have several clients running VM environments with similar AccessData products with a great deal of success. Given your VM has the appropriate number of logical CPU cores and RAM, the system will likely run very well.
Online AND Offline ???
Since we are moving to a web-based architecture, I know a lot of you are asking yourself what happens when you can’t connect to the Summation server??? Or you need to take your case to a deposition, or to court. No problem, you can use a mobile license to have a mobile Summation Pro/Express laptop! We’ve designed a copy case function that will allow the transfer of a network case to a local case(s) directory so you can take your case on the road, or work offline. The end-user will have the exact web-based user interface and will still access Summation via their web-browser. The only difference is they will be using IIS locally to provide the web services, and smaller, nimbler version of SQL for as a local database.
This post was meant to give some general guidelines and commentary on the new Summation solution specification and architecture. Please contact your account representative to schedule a one-on-one consultation with a technical representative in order to properly spec out a system to meet your needs and to inquire about a specification guide. For those that prefer to use a hosting provider we offer that as well. You will be able to leverage all the benefits of the revived Summation platform from the cloud as well. We are incredibly excited about the new Summation release and I’ll have lot more info as things progress. Should you have any questions feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Thanks and have a great day!