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University of Utah prescribes Hitachi storage for data woes

University of Utah Health extends its Hitachi Vantara storage implementation, adding the Hitachi Content Platform object storage to modernize its data center.

Keeping up with a rising flood of data in a rapidly changing healthcare industry requires University of Utah Health to use a broad mix of storage types. These include storage for data on premises and in public clouds.

With 1,400 physicians and 5,000 healthcare professionals, the health provider, based in Salt Lake City, treats residents in Utah and four surrounding states. University of Utah CTO Jim Livingston said data growth across the organization increases 35% year over year.

University of Utah Health (UUH) launched a storage modernization program to enhance patient care and ramp up AI-infused academic research. Livingston called his group's storage strategy "pro-public cloud where it makes sense," complemented by a locally managed hybrid cloud on campus to share resources across 150 IT organizations. On-premises storage includes SAN, NAS and object storage.

A big component of UUH's storage includes data replication, automation and orchestration between various cloud storage tiers, including on-premises Hitachi Vantara storage arrays. The organization runs Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform hybrid SAN arrays in its primary data center and disaster recovery site. The tiered Hitachi storage arrays handle electronic health records, back-office applications and file shares, using a mix of disk and flash. UUH also uses the Hitachi NAS Platform as a local host for file data that must remain behind the company's firewall.

Tape backups move to disk

UUH recently implemented Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) object storage, with an initial 8 petabytes of capacity, to improve backup and data-lifecycle management.

"This is a new tier of storage for us, and it's by far our fastest-growing tier. We have some big demands across campus. Cost is a huge driver for us with this tier of storage," Livingston said.

UUH uses Hitachi storage to gradually transition from tape to disk-to-disk backups to make it easier to replicate data between data centers. Livingston said UUH started moving backups to Microsoft Azure, but found HCP object storage cost significantly less.

"We're looking at other use cases, such as storing massive amounts of research data. We're looking at it potentially for putting our library archives online. Another big area of growth for us is archival data," Livingston said.

He said improved backup allows UUH to overcome the "never delete" syndrome with a deliberative approach to compliance and data curation.

"We have a lot of data that's been sitting unused for a long time," Livingston said. "We never ever delete it. We're finally able to flag that data, get the proper notifications out [to data owners] and start to safely delete it. Another use case we're looking into more is the WORM capability in HCP for protection against ransomware."

Livingston said his storage refresh allowed him to launch an internal hybrid cloud and use the public cloud more selectively.

"The whole purpose in my mind is to place workloads where it makes the most sense, and that's where having a hybrid cloud comes into play," he said. "You're able to move data to cloud and back on premises without it being a painful process."

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