HP gives medical archiving system a facelift

The latest version of HP's Medical Archiving Solution includes automatic failover and more flexible WORM.

Four months after overhauling its RISS data archive, Hewlett Packard Co. (HP) is brushing up another archiving product with the release of Medical Archive Solution (MAS) 3.0.

When it refreshed and changed the name of RISS to the Integrated Archive Platform (IAP) in September, HP officials admitted the product had been buggy, and its development slipped behind the competition. While MAS has done better in the market than RISS, users have also been waiting for new features HP incorporated in 3.0 released today.

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According to Thomas Vaughan, director of IT infrastructure for Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI), two of the new features have been on his wish list since early last year. "Up until 3.0, the biggest thing I wanted was automatic failover," he said. "The WORM option has also gotten a lot more flexible."

RPCI has four MAS systems divided between two data centers. One pair of MAS boxes archives PACS images, and the other archives images from a laboratory research group. MAS could perform failover, but it was active-passive, rather than active-active. If the active node failed, it would've taken up to a full day for HP tech support to reconfigure the passive node to allow new writes to the system. "My objective is to keep running even if one of the data centers burns to the ground," Vaughan said.

RPCI's medical archiving and laboratory research group has been using WORM. Previously, however, the WORM option was either on or off for the whole MAS box. Version 3.0 allows users to pick and choose WORM volumes.

New hardware, PACS partnerships

HP bundles Bycast Inc. content-addressed storage (CAS) software with MAS. With version 3.0, Bycast's grid software has been ported from Debian to SUSE Linux, which HP said will enable tape drives and other storage products to work with the grid.

Michael York, senior systems engineer for Asante Health Systems, said the port to SUSE will allow MAS to work with HP monitoring and reporting software. "Instead of finding a failed hard drive, we'll get better alerting," he said. The boost in the number of objects supported is also welcome news. "We haven't quite hit the limit, but we're getting close."

HP will offer two versions of the MAS 3.0: the Standard Line and the Compact Line. The Standard is closest to the original MAS, with a hardware refresh. It uses the latest DL360 and DL380 server nodes, and a new MSA storage shelf that supports 750 GB SATA drives. Faster processors and a more efficient database developed by Bycast have raised the number of objects both the Standard and Compact Lines can manage from 80 million to 200 million per Control Node pair. MAS Standard Line pricing starts at $143,200 for 5 TB.

The Compact Line is an entry-level version based on the DL320s storage server. The base Compact Line grid holds 6 TB, is priced starting at $60,000 and can be upgraded directly to the enterprise model.

HP has certified MAS with the most widely used PACS vendors, including McKesson Corp. and GE Healthcare. The PACS vendors will also sell the Compact Line to imaging customers. Medical archive managers have been clamoring for tighter integration between data archiving systems and PACS applications, and the new partnerships show HP's listening, according to Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) analyst Brian Babineau.

"Using McKesson and GE as routes to market shows HP did its research, and that the imaging vendors drove their productization [with the Compact Line]," he said.

York said he's hoping for the same certification with his PACS vendor, Fujifilm Corp. Another wish-list item for him is a native Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) interface from Bycast, which York said would allow for more efficient archiving. DICOM is a standard developed by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) used to distribute and view medical images.

"It's better for us to send DICOM-created images to a DICOM archive so we can do more with them," he said. "We would have more metadata associated with those files and could automatically get rid of things. Right now we're just storing everything indefinitely."

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