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Case study: EMC cures medical groups' storage ills

A storage environment out of control prompted the North Bronx Healthcare Network to move all of its medical data to EMC storage.

Ask any red-blooded New Yorker, and they'll tell you the most important record in the Bronx is the number of wins their hometown Yankees collect this season. But if you ask someone at the North Bronx Healthcare Network (NBHN), they'll say it's the medical record of any one of its thousands of patients.

The NBHN, one of six regional networks established by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., has come under the thumb of numerous federal data retention regulations and was facing a data storage explosion. Both factors prompted the network to put its proverbial eggs in one basket by moving to a single vendor for all of its storage needs. After an exhaustive search, the NBHN settled on hardware and software from EMC Corp., Hopkinton, Mass.

According to Daniel Morreale, North Bronx Healthcare Network's chief information officer, the group purchased 128 terabytes (TB) of EMC Centera content-addressed storage (CAS) to handle the medical group's vast wealth of archived digital medical images, like X-rays, MRIs and ultrasounds. The NBHN also acquired another 30 TB of EMC Symmetrix DMX for its storage area network (SAN) and EMC Celerra NS600 for network-attached storage (NAS); the NBHN is also using EMC ControlCenter management software.

There was a drawback to centralizing the NBHN IT infrastructure on EMC's new Symmetrix DMX storage array but, according to Morreale, it was no fault of EMC's. "It hasn't met 100% of our needs, not because the storage devices can't do it, but because the vendors that we deal with just don't know enough to get us where we need to be," he said. Morreale added that the application vendors are not cutting edge, and many of them have not written software that can work well with the Symmetrix DMX. He said that the NBHN continues to work with EMC to reach its storage management goals.

Morreale's job as CIO is to monitor the group's strategic initiatives and "make sure stuff is getting done." Part of that strategic plan called for finding a new way to store data.

"We have a variety of devices, and we're sitting on about 100 servers of every flavor," Morreale said. "We've always taken a best-of-breed approach. The fact is that it was getting increasingly difficult to manage."

Morreale set out on a process to consolidate the NBHN's storage by starting with a SAN then adding more SAN storage, some NAS capacity and finally the Centera content-addressed storage system.

The NBHN was not a stranger to EMC prior to moving all its storage to the company's platform. The network's primary clinical application lived on Data General boxes and Clariion arrays.

Morreale said the move was not an easy process. "When we decided about a year ago to move toward a consolidated approach, part of our learning curve was really understanding what kinds of storage devices were out there that matched our needs," he said. "During our education process, as we were talking to vendors, we realized we didn't know enough about storage." The NBHN hired a small consulting firm to put together a storage model to help the medical group with its search for a storage provider.

Morreale said Centera will serve as the long-term repository for cardiology and radiology images, Wave and JPEG files, and other media. After images have existed for three years, NBHN will move them from EMC's online Symmetrix DMX-based SAN and Celerra NS600 NAS systems to Centera.

The NBHN will utilize EMC's Celerra NS600 midrange NAS system to store and manage financial reports, Microsoft Office files, and other back-office related data. The NS600 will be fully integrated with EMC's Centera and Symmetrix SAN, which will store transaction-oriented clinical data, to provide NBHN with centralized management over all types of data.

All told, the hospital network now has a 170 TB of EMC infrastructure that support medical records, physician order entry and its health care information system (HIS), as well as Microsoft Exchange, Oracle databases, SQL, PACS and other applications. The setup supports centralized storage for a range of servers, running IBM AIX, Windows NT, Data General Unix, and Sun Solaris operating systems.

In addition to ControlCenter, NBHN uses EMC's PowerPath and TimeFinder software.

NBHN isn't the only customer who signed on for EMC this week.

NTT Data Corp. (NTT DoCoMo), a mobile communications company, announced this week that it has implemented EMC Automated Networked Storage to manage and protect NTT DoCoMo's new gateway system, Circus. Circus is the core of NTT DoCoMo's mobile I-mode service, which provides e-mail and Internet access to more than 38 million mobile phone subscribers in Japan. Two years ago, DoCoMo began deploying a 400 TB Symmetrix SAN to support 400 Unix servers. The implementation is now complete and in production.

EMC also banked beverage bottling behemoth PepsiAmericas Inc., signing the company up for a storage services engagement.

EMC's information solutions consulting group (ISC) announced completion of a storage services engagement at PepsiAmericas. EMC's ISC group moved PepsiAmericas' multivendor computing center to a new facility. PepsiAmericas maintains 15 TB of storage, more than 150 Unix and Windows NT servers and an array of networking equipment, according to the company.


Let us know what you think about the story. E-mailKevin Komiega, News Writer

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