Allegiance Health migrates to Atmos with Seven10 Storage

Allegiance Health is utilizing Seven10's Storfirst data migration software to transition from NetApp's StorageGrid to EMC Atmos scale-out cloud storage.

After replacing its NetApp StorageGrid object storage system with EMC Atmos, Allegiance Health needed a way to migrate more than 70 TB of medical records.

For the migration to Atmos, Jackson, Mich.-based Allegiance picked Seven10 Storage's Storfirst Migration software. Seven10 is a partner of EMC for data migration.

Migrating data between two storage systems from the same vendor can be challenging, so moving from one vendor to another is often a major hurdle. But David Morehead, VM, storage and backup engineer at Allegiance, said the move has gone smoothly without any disruptions in the patient care process.

Allegiance has migrated approximately 65 TB of data, and Morehead expects by the end his team will have migrated 75 TB. During the transition, he noticed that speed of retrieval and storing increased. In the past, Morehead said there were times that it was difficult to find certain files without a quick way to look them up. "We haven't had any of those instances at this point," he said of the migration.

Storfirst Migration syncs data between the target and source, provides an audit of files and directories that are migrated and offers a final verification match before cutting over to the new system. It supports storage arrays and file systems from vendors including EMC, NetApp, Hitachi Data Systems, HP and Dell.

Allegiance was a StorageGrid customer before NetApp acquired Bycast -- the original StorageGrid vendor -- in 2010. Morehead said the StorageGrid architecture remained the same after the acquisition, but he knew he would eventually need more storage space for caching larger files. NetApp worked with Allegiance to create a growth path, but Morehead said StorageGrid "wasn't flexible enough to accommodate the different types of data we were trying to store. The architecture was much more cumbersome. It was much more limiting."

The ability to "future-proof" its data and maintain the option to change storage vendors down the road were the main reasons Allegiance selected Seven10 for the migration.

"If Atmos doesn't fit our needs and we need to go to another [vendor], we could transition to them with Seven10 with very minimal impact to our organization," Morehead said.

As a healthcare organization, Allegiance is storing large files such as echocardiographs, AGFA images and the document manager for patient driver's licenses and insurance cards.

"The amount of data we are storing and migrating isn't huge by any means, however one application is storing upward of 220 million files, which has some unique challenges that we needed to step back and address," he said.

Flexibility is key to healthcare companies' storage because its data is certain to outlive its technology.

HIPAA requires that information be kept for a period of six years, but Allegiance does not delete files after the six-year minimum.

"We take the stance of whatever you have is important, and a doctor shouldn't have to limit himself to the last four years of care that you had or the x-rays that you've received in the last four years to look up items on you in particular," Morehead said. "We keep all of our images forever. We do not delete."

Seven10 Storage CEO Bobby Moulton said his company's software is designed with the knowledge that the constant evolution of storage may prompt customers to use different vendors in the future, and he doesn't expect the vendors to make it easy on customers to switch.

"We recognize that there's not going to be a point in time where all the storage manufacturers get together and say, 'This is it, this is the holy grail of storage, we've designed it, we're not going to make any more advancements to it,'" Moulton said. "We don't want to build any technology that's going to corner [customers] into a specific platform."

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