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Healthcare service provider gets QoS with SolidFire storage

Healthcare service provider AHCS needed fast performance and zero downtime, so they chose an all-flash SolidFire storage array for guaranteed QoS.

Automated HealthCare Solutions (AHCS) provides critical services to the healthcare industry, which means its business has zero tolerance for downtime.

To achieve that, AHCS switched to an all-flash storage platform, although the original goal was an array that handled quality of service for predictable performance and was easy to scale.

Miramar, Florida-based AHCS installed four SolidFire storage arrays in 2013 and has since added four more of the flash arrays.

 "We needed 100 percent uptime. We needed to make sure we were never down," AHCS CIO Edward Dibeler said. "We wanted something we could upgrade with no performance interruptions and that eliminated 80 percent of the SANs out there."

AHCS sells applications and services that automate and coordinate medical and social services. Its ezVerify service provides real-time insurance verification. But the company's legacy storage, mostly Hewlett-Packard entry-level MSA arrays, struggled to keep up with the real-time performance demands.

AHCS added HP MSA systems but it did not solve its need for systems to run without downtime.

"We still found ourselves in a pickle when we had to do upgrades or maintenance," he said. "We needed to make a better choice for upgrades."

AHCS uses a series of Microsoft SQL databases that require solid storage performance and low latency for critical applications. Dibeler said he wanted to reduce management overhead and complexity by consolidating storage for its pre-production, production, demos and staging environments onto a single storage platform.

Dibeler said ACHS looked at Pure Storage, Violin Memory and Dell's EqualLogic systems before choosing SolidFire. He said Pure offered quality of service but did not support iSCSI. Violin did not offer quality of service and was too expensive for AHCS' budget.

"The other vendors we looked at didn't have quality of service. They would ask us, ‘Why do you need it?'" Dibeler said.

Quality of service was a key feature since the start for SolidFire, which originally sold its arrays exclusively to cloud service providers. SolidFire customers can assign maximum, minimum and burst IOPS on a per-volume basis.

Dibeler was impressed with its quality of service, and also that AHCS could scale seamlessly with SolidFire's software-based proprietary controller by adding more appliances.

"You can just add another appliance and you increase redundancy while also adding more horse power," Dibeler said.

He said he can lose three SolidFire storage units with no impact on performance and no data loss.

"If we have to replace a unit, we don't have to do a RAID rebuild," he said. "The MSAs had a week of RAID rebuilds."

Dibeler said flash was not high on his initial list of needs when he went shopping for a new storage platform.

"The SSDs were a side benefit," Dibeler said. "We thought it was a nice to have. We just wanted the ability to scale with zero impact. I did not want production to fail. With SolidFire, I can go right to the application level and see how much random IOPS performance utilization I'm getting. I can quantify down to the application level when an application hits a burst rate. The systems have that much horsepower."

Next Steps

SolidFire releases SF2405 and SF4805 solid-state arrays

Fibre channel and replication added to SolidFire all-flash array

How to maximize uptime for SAN systems in Healthcare IT

Dig Deeper on All-flash arrays

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