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HP adds capacity to Medical Archiving System SAN nodes

HP says version 3.5 of its Medical Archiving System (MAS) system is like the Incredible Hulk – bigger, badder and greener than before.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) is boosting the capacity of its Medical Archiving System (MAS) appliance with support for denser hardware nodes along with more objects in its grid software.

Version 3.5 of HP's MAS 3.5 appliance boosts the capacity of storage area network (SAN) nodes to 32 TB each, up from 10 TB. HP's storage server, the DL320s, will become the main storage node for new MAS deployments, boosting SATA capacity to 10 TB, adding support for SAS disks, and scaling the overall capacity to 160 TB per rack. Version 3.5 also bumps up the cache on the system to 1 TB, allowing ever-larger medical images to be held in memory.

To speed MAS deployments, HP will prerack and preinstall ByCast's grid software at its factory instead of at the customer's site. HP services engineers will still bring the preconfigured appliance on-site and handle the integration of the appliance into a customer's environment.

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"The user never touches [the appliance]," said Lisa Dali, product marketing manager for MAS. Although the customer didn't have to touch the appliance before, it took service engineers more time to assemble previous versions of the appliance at customer sites, Dali said.

Still, upgrading to version 3.5 won't be a cut-and-dry decision for existing MAS users such as Gwinnett Medical Center in Gwinnett, Ga., even though the medical center was the first MAS customer three years ago, and is an HP storage shop with around 250 TB stored on EVA and MSA arrays, as well as a mix of HP and IBM servers. Rick Allen, assistant president of IT operations, said he faces a forklift upgrade because the hardware and software are integrated into MAS appliances. It will also be a rolling upgrade at his facility, which relies on a dual-node 60 TB MAS cluster for radiology and cardiology images.

HP services will probably perform the actual upgrade, with the help of a Gwinnett administrator. But it will take place one node at a time, with failovers to a redundant grid on Gwinnett's campus or at one of Iron Mountain's hosted facilities. Gwinnett is also a pilot customer of Iron Mountain's cloud-based Digital Record Center for Medical Images. Allen said he expected to have to pay for the services engagements as well as the new hardware being put in place.

Still, Allen said the cost of upgrading to the new system doesn't impact the ROI calculations the hospital system used when making its initial investment in MAS. "Before we had a disk-based medical imaging system, images had to be printed out individually and then given to the radiologists to read. Radiologists were here till 8 or 9 at night just reading images," he said. "It used to take an hour just to generate an image – now it takes just an hour to get a diagnosis."

The denser storage nodes are needed as space grows scarcer in Gwinnett's data centers, Allen said. "Hospital space is revenue-producing space." The main data center has already run out of room, forcing the company to expand operations to a secondary data center in a support building, which is also used for local disaster recovery. "Now that data center is full too," Allen said.

The center's McKesson medical imaging systems are to blame for much of the data expansion. Historically, the hospital has added data at around 10 TB per year, but Allen expects denser images and more detailed studies to boost growth to 15 TB or 20 TB per year over the next seven years before compliance requirements allow him to begin deleting some data.

DICOM integration remains a wish-list item for some users

When HP announced version 3.0 of MAS in January, customers said they wanted to see the archive ingest and share images using the DICOM standard. HP MAS is now certified with 35 major PACS vendors, according to Dali, but the preference among those vendors seems to be to interface with archiving appliances through CIFS or NFS, rather than DICOM, she said.

"We're passive when it comes to the interface applications choose to use to communicate with the storage grid," she said. "From a sharing perspective, DICOM is not necessarily the most robust or common approach."

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