IBM Writes Storage Prescription for Medical Center

With business growing by leaps and bounds, the $6 billion University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) needed to lower its IT costs while supporting continued growth. To solve the conundrum, the health care system turned to IBM as its sole enterprise solution partner from servers to storage.

Creating a three-tier storage architecture using IBM storage technology, UPMC is not only meeting its price/performance objectives, but is also getting the reliability, scalability and manageability it was looking for.

“As a single-vendor enterprise, we believe we can control costs and stay near state-of-the-art,” says Joe Furmanski, lead technology architect at UPMC.

The medical center’s three-tier architecture includes IBM Storage Systems DS8300, DS6800s and DS4800s. UPMC is also using IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for backup and IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center solutions for disk, data, fabric and replication.

With $2 billion in revenue growth over the last couple of years, UPMC today has 40,000 employees and is made up of 19 hospitals and a network of other care sites across western Pennsylvania and throughout the world, such as doctors’ offices, cancer centers, outpatient treatment centers, specialized imaging and surgery facilities, in-home care, rehabilitation sites, behavioral health care and nursing homes.

With the exception of medical imaging, a separate turnkey system, all hospital systems from medical to administrative now use the IBM tiered-storage architecture.

Ailing Systems

UPMC ran a traditional IT shop for about 10 years: Digital, Compaq, then HP StorageWorks up through the HP Enterprise Modular Array (EMA) and HP Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA). “We’re early system adopters,” notes Furmanski.

Then, about four and a half years ago, the medical center’s most critical application, Electronic Health Records, was running on an HP Alpha server that was running out of room. Delivery of a new chip for the HP hardware had stagnated, according to Furmanski, so the organization made the decision to move to IBM’s pSeries servers running AIX. “We also agreed to move to the F20 Shark storage system,” he adds.

Taking a deeper look at the organization’s growth and future direction, however, the IT organization knew it needed to do more.

A year and a half ago, UPMC evaluated three vendors, one of whom would become the organization’s main IT vendor partner. At the end of the day, IBM beat out Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard.

According to storage growth figures put together by UPMC, between 1999 and 2005, the organization was experiencing a 59% compound annual growth rate in capacity or storage volume. “That was taking into account Windows, Unix and our mainframes,” he says.

IT decision makers knew that storage virtualization technology would play a key role in its future. “On the storage side, we felt that IBM was way ahead of the competition when it came to virtualization,” says Furmanski. With annual double-digit storage growth, he knew that virtualization would help the medical center control costs.

In 2000, the medical center had 33 terabytes of storage. More recently, the organization was at 330 terabytes.

Given that trend, which the medical center expects to continue, Furmanski today projects annual increases in storage capacity to range about 25 percent (real storage) with the gap closed with virtualization and the three-tier storage architecture. UPMC uses IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller virtualization software.

Partnering on Storage Health

The partnership that ensued between UPMC and IBM about a year and a half ago is an eight-year program that includes migrating UPMC from its current IT infrastructure that includes HP products and solutions to one that is made up of IBM storage and servers.

The first phase of the project, the migration, is expected to take about three years. UPMC is halfway through the first phase, according to Furmanski. “We’re about 60 to 70 percent migrated to IBM from the HP equipment and we’re about 50 percent virtualized,” he says.

UPMC’s group is working with information lifecycle management (ILM) processes to classify and manage the tiered storage.

The health organization also purchased IBM System Storage N series Network Attached Storage (NAS), and will begin to move file and print storage, which accounts for about one-third of its Windows storage, to the new storage architecture. The move, according to Furmanski, will eliminate more than 40 dedicated file and print servers.

UPMC is already reaping benefits. “We’re supporting growth while keeping costs flat, and we’re doing it with minimal staff,” says Furmanski. He also notes that centralizing Windows storage into the SAN has enabled IT to provision storage quickly and only what is needed. “In the past, we had stagnant storage in our Windows environment,” he says.

The medical center currently has 400 terabytes of storage installed and expects to have about 500 terabytes of storage installed by the end of phase I.

Going forward, UPMC will bring in IBM Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator tools for automated provisioning, configuration and deployment at the server and storage levels.

For more storage features, visit Enterprise Storage Forum Special Reports

Lynn Haber
Lynn works as an editor-at-large meeting with new and established channel partners in the IT and telecommunications ecosphere. She works to understand what motivates partners, vendors, and distributors as they navigate growth in a dynamic industry. Lynn has worked as a business and technology writer for magazines, journals, and online media, and has authored hundreds of articles on technology, communications, business management, employment and careers, industry, and products.

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