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New storage aimed at medical industry's pain points

Storage vendors are taking notice of the fast-growing opportunity in the medical industry. A pair of vendors recently introduced storage configurations specifically designed for hospitals and medical centers.

Storage professionals in the health care industry may have some relief for what ails them. Storage vendors have taken notice of the fast-growing storage opportunity in the medical market. A pair of vendors recently introduced storage configurations specifically designed for hospitals and medical centers.

This week, IBM Corp. announced a new set of medical imaging workstation and storage networking systems designed specifically for sharing patient information, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electrocardiograms, computed tomography (CT) scans, and other digital images.

At the Radiological Society of North America 2002 conference, IBM also announced collaborations with PACS (picture archiving and communications systems) and medical imaging providers to design integrated systems that combine storage and server technologies with advanced imaging systems.

IBM has four new storage packages for medical facilities of varying size; each package uses either NAS or SAN technology. The configurations consist of IBM's TotalStorage NAS or IBM TotalStorage FAStT for online storage, IBM TotalStorage Linear Tape-Open (LTO) for nearline storage, and IBM Tivoli storage management, backup and recovery, archive and Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) software.

Also at the conference, NAS maker Procom Technology Inc., Irvine, Calif., entered the health care storage fray in response to the demand for Internet access to medical images and research.

Procom debuted a program aimed at the storage needs of the medical industry. As part of the program, Procom is assembling a dedicated distribution channel to sell its NetForce NAS filers to medical industry resellers and OEMs. The company said its NAS filers are suited to the high-bandwidth network environments of digital archiving providers in the medical imaging community.

Randy Kerns, senior analyst for the Boulder, Colo.-based Evaluator Group Inc., said that the medical industry has been inadequately served by storage vendors in the past.

"The ability to store and share information here is an opportunity because it has not been done efficiently or effectively, if at all," he said. "By applying storage networking technologies, this can be done much better with improvements for the medical industry in cost and efficiency and for the patients in speed and cost."

However, there is a catch to data storage in the medical profession. Kerns said a storage configuration has to conform to the legal requirements for privacy of data or there could be some liability.

"This isn't a new market but an under-served market with great potential in capacity demands and subsequent revenue," he said.

New York-based research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan said the IT market opportunity for PACS medical imaging applications is in the neighborhood of $5 billion to $10 billion. However, these estimates are not just for storage, but also include servers, workstations, middleware, systems management, security, collaboration and IT services.

The Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ontario, which serves more than 200,000 patients a year and is growing, needed a new way to store data from its picture archive communication system, a library of radiology and ultrasound images.

In his role as vice president and chief financial officer for information technology, Dan Germain oversees the hospital's entire IT staff, meaning that if Credit Valley had a storage problem, Germain would have to understand the technology and its implications before signing off on the purchase. "I approve all capital purchases in the hospital," he said.

Two years ago, the hospital commissioned an outside consultant to draft an IT strategy. The findings were clear. The hospital's existing optical jukebox storage system, which supports the PACS system, was out of date and out of space. Germain and his IT team surveyed the industry and settled on a SAN configuration based on IBM's Shark Enterprise Storage Server.

"The key use of this system is for the paper images that we scan and put online," said Germain. "We are also in the process of moving our diagnostic imaging PACS from optical storage to the SAN."

The new storage systems for the hospital include a Shark Model 800 with 8T bytes of disk capacity, Fibre Channel Switches, an IBM NAS 300G gateway and a 3584 Ultrium LTO tape library for centralized data backup.

Germain added that the Shark would be the hospital's single storage device for everything, including Office applications and its Exchange server.


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Let us know what you think of this story. E-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer

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