Article

Hospitals treat data with IP storage

Mark Lewis

The health of two hospitals is being cured by IP storage. Making the case for the benefits of IP storage are Jeff Pelot, CTO, Denver Health Hospital and Medical Center in Denver, Colorado and Mike Luter, CTO, Cancer Therapy & Research Center in San Antonio Texas.

As CTOs of non-profit hospitals, the cost savings IP storage brought to their data centers was worth the risk of being an early adopter. By using IP storage, each has seen considerable budget dollars freed up by not having to buy expensive HBAs; it's also afforded better space management, easier disaster recovery pathways and boosted utilization rates.

Denver Health is a multi-faceted healthcare organization running a series of services -- aside from traditional 390-bed hospital. Also included in the network is an HMO service with more than 60,000 members, a nursing school, public health facilities and even correctional institution health care services, to name a few. The network boasts more than 3700 employees and 600,000 outpatient visits per year.

In 2001, the CEO of Denver Health threw the gauntlet down to the hospital executives, including Pelot. She wanted Denver to become the most "healthy US community by 2010". Pelot knew that if continued to manage his storage with the same infrastructure, the health of the systems that ran the hospital would be on life support. At that point he was looking at 40% year-over-year growth rates and a 2000 sq ft. data center that was quickly running

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out of space and operating without a DR site, which was a risky proposition given where the primary data center is located.

"The data center was also located in the basement, underneath the physical therapy center," said Pelot. "The only problem with that was there were 6, 1000 gallon hot tubs right above my servers. Luckily no significant water ever got down into the data center."

Pelot knew changes had to be made, especially with the looming issue of regulatory compliance mandates such as HIPAA that were set to deeply impact the way data needed to be handled. He also knew changes had to be made without impacting the life and death services doctors provide on a daily basis.

"Doctors expect [data availability] to be like a telephone," said Pelot. "They want it to be one or two mouse clicks away. They don't care how difficult [running the systems] is."

So, that year Pelot went out and evaluated the options. He looked at the IBM Shark and the EMC Symmertix. Both had exactly what he'd need, but being from a non-profit hospital, he just didn't have the money to spend. He also looked and eventually bought an EMC CLARiion, which he felt had similar features as the Symmetrix, without the hefty price tag.

Pelot also agreed to partner with LeftHand Networks on a beta IP storage strategy. Under the agreement, Denver Health would become a test bed for the IP storage systems. It was a bit of a risk for Pelot, and not everyone was on board for the test.

"When I presented this to the folks, they weren't very excited about it," he said.

Still unsure of the IP storage boxes himself -- he allowed them to get beat on. He placed them in carpenter's closets and random places around the hospital. The boxes did stand the test of the heat and sawdust. Placing boxes around the office, instead of one central location helped solve the DR dilemma.

He also found, unlike Fibre Channel (FC) SAN, the more drives you add, performance actually increased. Pelot did not have to buy additional switches or HBAs, saving him additional dollars. He's also impressed with the ease of management and he hasn't lost much of the functionality he thought he'd be missing without FC.

"The features are the same. Reporting, snapshots -- and you don't need the HBAs," said Pelot. "The I/O rates are not quite the same levels [as FC] but the DBAs have been tolerant and the end users can't tell the difference."

Pelot estimates he's seen about a 20% cost reduction since implementing the IP storage network.

Next week, find out how Mike Luter and the CTRC has had similar success with IP storage

For more information on IP storage take a look here:

  • A beginner's guide to iSCSI

  • Experts: What's the buzz on iSCSI?

  • IBM teams with Cisco for IP SANs
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