Onaro Keeps Healthcare Group’s Storage Up and Running

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CareGroup Healthcare Systems uses information technology to tie together several major hospitals, a couple of hundred community-based clinics and individual physician practices across eastern Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, phenomenal growth of its distributed IT infrastructure left the healthcare organization desperate for sophisticated tools to manage it all.

High on the list was an automated solution for SAN change management. CareGroup found Onaro’s SANscreen product a few years ago and continues to implement new features as the product evolves and the organization expands its storage infrastructure.

“SANscreen gives us a central view of all our change management and peace of mind we never had before, because there just wasn’t any way we could know everything using manual processes,” said Michael Passe, senior storage architect for Boston-based CareGroup.

Supporting the IT needs of about 16,000 users made up of doctors, residents and support staff spread out across medical campuses and communities of eastern Massachusetts has been a growing task for 11-year-old CareGroup.

In 2003, CareGroup increased its storage to well over 20 terabytes. Today, the organization manages more than 100 terabytes of storage in what is primarily an EMC storage environment.

Since first implementing SANscreen about three years ago, CareGroup has taken advantage of product improvements such as new methodologies, additional modules such as service management, and improved reporting features. The healthcare organization is also currently a beta site for a virtualization module (see Xsigo, Onaro Offer New Ways to Virtualize).

A Cry for Help

The delivery of healthcare is CareGroup’s mission. The team of healthcare professionals provides a broad spectrum of health services, both primary and specialty, in a variety of medical settings. The CareGroup hospital members include Beth Israel Deaconess (BID) Medical Center in Boston, Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, New England Baptist Hospital in Boston and BID Hospital Needham campus. In addition to these major healthcare facilities, CareGroup is also located in many Massachusetts communities in health centers and private physician practices.

In 2003, the organization recognized the growth of its storage environment and the need to better manage this IT asset. CareGroup formed a full-time dedicated IT storage team to manage growth as the organization continued to introduce new applications and the amount of digital patient records and clinical information grew.

A round-the-clock operation, CareGroup not too long ago had a number of storage assets from multiple vendors and was lacking system administration.

“As the number of servers increased and our storage needs increased, it was difficult to keep tabs on administering it all,” said Passe. “In particular, we needed a methodology for doing things like non-disruptive upgrades and code upgrades, for example, rather than doing spot checks.”

The storage team learned about SANscreen Predictive Change Management software while at a trade show and was excited about finding a product that could meet its requirements, such as: automating change monitoring and troubleshooting to eliminate SAN-related downtime; enabling automated planning and simulation to detect errors before, during and after changes; validating access paths to understand the effect of change on all data paths; and performing root-cause analysis to resolve problems quickly.

“At that point, we were very risk-adverse. The organization had experienced downtime for five days due to not managing change effectively,” said Passe.

Today, the SAN infrastructure supports all applications at the organization, including: Microsoft Exchange; file and print servers; four different SQL database clusters; a Unix cluster that supports more than six instances of Oracle; clinical applications; a business intelligence engine; PeopleSoft; and a VMware farm with two production servers and one test server, for a total of more than 100 hosts.

Managing Change

CareGroup purchased the core SANscreen product and had the vendor’s engineers do the installation and integration. Today, the SAN change management solution pulls together information from the EMC storage infrastructure, including five Clariions, a Symmetrix DMX 2000 and a Symmetrix DMX 800.

For reporting, the software pulls information from a number of storage management products: EMC StorageScope, SNMP into the Cisco System Switch, and EMC Control Center for the Symmetrix products.

“Now we get a view over all our change management,” said Passe.

Passe said distribution of alerts and reporting can tie specific hosts to specific individuals, a feature that wasn’t available when CareGroup first purchased the product.

According to the vendor, companies utilize SANscreen for migration and consolidation, root-cause analysis and troubleshooting, to improve storage utilization and asset recovery, reporting and chargeback, and risk mitigation.

The software, said Passe, is self-managing and easy to use, which his team appreciates.

“We don’t want to spend more time managing the tool than managing the environment,” he said. While he isn’t able to quantify the ROI since implementing SANscreen, Passe said the software quickly freed up his team’s time, which in and of itself continues to be a major benefit.

Most recently, CareGroup is testing a VMware module. The organization recently added VMware and a second data center for disaster recovery.

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Lynn Haber
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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