How a tech partnership is fueling innovation for information management | VentureBeat

Presented by MongoDB

Iron Mountain is the custodian of artifacts and documents for highly regulated organizations, including a multitude of Fortune 500 companies, global customers across five major markets, and several government agencies. That amounts to a whole lot of records and realms of information.

In the past ten years, the company has evolved from a traditional physical asset storage and shredding company to offer an intelligent document processing (IDP) AI/ML-based solution. This digitizes, ingests and processes millions of records per day to classify, enrich and extract metadata for customers to view in the company’s content services platform (CSP) — unlocking the potential of all that information.

“Just scanning in documents and putting them on a screen is easy. It’s one thing to have a digital archive. It’s another thing to understand everything in it,” says Adam Williams, senior director, digital solutions platforms at Iron Mountain. “Our InSight platform gives customers the ability to manage their digital content of course, but more importantly, it lets them unlock the data they’re storing to solve business problems and aid business processes.”

That’s where MongoDB comes in. The Iron Mountain InSight Platform is built on MongoDB Atlas, a multi-cloud developer data platform that accelerates and simplifies how you build with data.

“MongoDB is an integral part of our actual infrastructure solution, ” says Aditya Udas, vice president, global head of strategic deals and channel alliances at Iron Mountain. “We have a vast and highly disparate, diverse customer base. Together, we’ve come up with a robust solution that can solve a multitude of business problems and customer challenges, allowing us to take what we’re doing in the physical and quasi-digital realm to a fully digital space.”

The tech partnership behind the scenes

Iron Mountain is a cloud-native solution, running on AWS and Google Cloud Platform with Kubernetes, which allows them to scale rapidly, providing the ability to ingest millions of documents per minute through their system. When choosing a database solution, robust analytics capabilities were key, Williams said — the ability to gather data and report on it quickly, letting their platform transform natively unstructured content, extract the relevant information, and then generate reporting and analytics on the metadata.

“To produce the metrics and analytics we’ve been able to build, plus the ability to do time-series reporting, would traditionally require a large ETL implementation,” Williams says. “Here we’re able to build our data stores and then put the reporting right on top of that, and do that at scale. We’re able to convert information into actionable and meaningful data. That’s the crux of this InSight platform.”

They’re also able to create and spin up new instances quickly, sometimes in less than a day, or even in just a couple of hours or minutes. They do it with their automation scripting and continuous integration, continuous deployment, or CI/CD.

“That was a big enhancement for us, to trim down the amount of time it takes us to stand up a customer or even a new development instance,” he says. “The ability to fully automate with our cloud CI/CD is what’s been very important.”

On the back end, the company also needs to be able to scale massively, Williams says, as well as build out data models quickly, starting with a base metadata schema. Iron Mountain has over 100,000 customers including the majority of the Fortune 500. To give a sense of the scale, last year, the company digitized over 870 million pages of documents, which is enough to spread from Atlanta, Georgia to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

They have to be agile as well, to be able to quickly adjust the data model in response to customer requests. MongoDB’s document model gives them the ability to ingest data quickly and later optimize the schema design based on how the data is accessed.

“Customers expect queries to be coming back in milliseconds,” says Williams. “When you’re searching tens of millions of documents, things have to be responsive and come back quickly. We work with MongoDB to make sure we have the scalability in place to meet the client’s SLAs.”

It’s a big step up from how they used to scale, which required an entire team to manage the CPUs, the memory and the number of machines necessary for an in-house solution. Now they’re able to handle the workload by using the monitoring capability on the back end, plus leveraging Atlas’ auto-scaling capabilities to ensure there are enough resources assigned to the MongoDB instance that’s running.

The ability to index a lot of data quickly has also been a game changer. They can connect to a Pub/Sub such as Kafka and stream the data directly into the database and search engine. That saves the development team a tremendous amount of time, now that they no longer have to build complex indexing processes.

Williams says MongoDB’s ability to be cloud agnostic was another important feature for them as they work with multiple cloud providers. Rather than having to manage and scale for each cloud separately, Atlas abstracts away the underlying differences between the three major public cloud providers so developers can simply write their code and deploy no matter if they’re using AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud.

As a fully managed service, Atlas is secure out of the box and provides Iron Mountain the ability to be compliant with a variety of regulations and automatically patch their software when upgrades are available. Traditionally, Iron Mountain’s engineering teams would spend a large chunk of their time doing this undifferentiated day-to-day maintenance work, however with Atlas able to automate the majority of it, they now can spend more time helping their customers solve problems.

Looking ahead with MongoDB

Moving forward, Iron Mountain is exploring its use of Atlas Search, which allows developers to build full-text search experiences on their operational data without the need to stand up additional infrastructure.  This allows Iron Mountain to modernize its archive of physical and digital records inventory, which is in the billions of assets.

The company is continuing its digital journey with two new solutions centering on their mailroom offering and invoice offering. Iron Mountain can digitize paper mail, and with its content services platform capability, offers a dashboard to view and manage mail. For invoices, the company is integrating with ERP systems such as SAP and Oracle to allow customers to digitize those documents, extract the key metadata, and then integrate it with their business processes so that they can approve and pay invoices.

Additionally, Iron Mountain is beginning to leverage MongoDB for reporting and analytics as customers want to be able to load a report for a million documents on their screen in just several seconds. Traditionally, this would be run by back office programs and then the full report would be emailed some days later to the customer. Now, MongoDB provides the ability to generate on-demand reporting and the analytics for customers without having to have a large architecture to support it.

“We have customers that are coming with all kinds of different requirements, and MongoDB has been a good partner in our ability to look at different options, different ideas,” Williams says. “We have the new technologies, new capabilities and new service offerings to really take a customer’s data needs from beginning to end. From the moment the document’s been created to the time that it needs to be digitized, archived or destroyed, we’re now providing that end-to-end capability.”

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