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Medical imaging firm picks Plasmon over EMC

Hearing unfavorable news from its parent hospital about EMC's Centera archiving appliance, Newport Imaging picked Plasmon's UDO Archive Appliance to store its PACS images.

Keeping up with the archival needs of a Picture Archiving Communications System (PACS) is no joke when you're scanning up to 120 new images a day. Reaching full capacity on its Plasmon Plc. magneto optical jukebox, Newport Imaging Centers had to find more storage and fast.

Newport Imaging archives MRI scans, CAT scans, ultrasound, bone densitometry, mammography and diagnostic X-rays for its two parent companies, Hoag Memorial Hospital and Newport Harbor Radiology Associates, based in Newport Beach, Calif.

"We looked at [EMC] Centera, but the reliability was in question -- you're not getting that copy to take off site to store in a vault at Iron Mountain [Inc.]," said Scott La Clair, systems administrator at Newport Imaging. "It's volatile, and regardless of how much redundancy or how many copies it makes, [because of the replication feature] if something's corrupt, then it's corrupted multiple times."

Newport Imaging's parent hospital, Hoag Memorial, uses Centera, but La Clair hadn't heard favorable things about it. "They had a lot of installation and migration issues, and they are still having minor problems with it, plus the cost of it was way too high for what we could spend," he said.

One of Newport Imaging's main concerns was making sure it had a disaster recovery strategy. It chose the Plasmon UDO (Ultra Density Optical) Archive Appliance (AA174), which automatically creates two copies on two different disks, one that can be ejected and sent off site.

The AA174 midrange model has slots for 174 30 GB UDO platters, four UDO drives and a total capacity of 5 terabytes (TB). It combines RAID and UDO in a single device, unlike older RAID-less jukeboxes. "I used to be able to hear the old machine grind into action: I could hear the arm pull out the disk, load it and eventually find the data -- it was very slow compared to the new appliance," according to La Clair. Up to 30 users at three different sites are accessing the UDO Archive Appliance today, and with UDO capacity doubling every two to three years, La Clair said he doesn't foresee the need for another archiving system.

La Clair estimates his current annual average capacity to be between 550 GB to 650 GB per year, but when the firm brings its digital mammography online, he predicts that will add another 420 GB per year. Likewise, CT scanners are taking increasingly more data slices. But he still expects to use under 1 TB per year even with a growth rate of 10% to 20%.

Replacing the old jukebox and moving all its historical images over to the new box wasn't easy. Newport Imaging found a bug when transferring images between its General Electric Co. Centricity PACS application and the UDO Archive Appliance. "It was retrieving faster than the application could send images, causing errors," La Clair noted. Newport Imaging discovered it would be cheaper to upgrade its network from a 3-to-4 Mbps link to a 100 Mbps link to solve the problem, rather than upgrading its PACS software and hardware. "Eventually, we'll have to do that, maybe a year from now, but in the meantime the new high-speed connection lets us complete the migration."

In addition to ironing out that bug, La Clair would like to see Plasmon add better search capabilities to the UDO Archive Appliance. "It would be great to separate or isolate which disks have children or mammography images to remove that data when it's no longer needed. Right now, it's all on a single disk."

In addition to the medical imaging market, Plasmon recently announced new applications for the UDO Archive Appliance, including document imaging and capture, content management and e-mail archiving.

EMC was unavailable to comment on this story by press time.

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