Medical Center Undergoes Storage Transplant

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A busy hospital, King’s Daughters Medical Center of Ashland, Kentucky, had no time to deal with aging, disparate storage systems. That’s why, beginning in 2005, the medical institution partnered with Sun Microsystems for an enterprise SAN and data storage solution.

Today, KDMC relies on Sun StorageTek products and solutions to meet its daily and long-term storage needs.

“We’ve lowered our costs, we’ve reduced back-up times by 80 percent, and we’re now actively managing our storage,” says Chad Phipps, PACS administrator with KDMC, a not-for-profit medical center offering a comprehensive range of medical services.

As the medical center built up an increasingly diverse storage environment over the years, the IT department spent more time managing it than reaping benefits. Prior to the recent storage overhaul, KDMC had products from EMC, HP, IBM and Network Appliance. “We had storage silos and our products were at end of life. We were at the point where we had to do something,” says Phipps.

That crisis led the medical center to map out its storage needs at the same time it restructured its IT environment.

Treating Ailing Systems

While more than one of the multiple storage systems at KDMC, a 385-bed facility, was reaching capacity, it was the cardiology imaging system — archived to DVD — that pushed hospital administrators into architecting a new storage environment.

A facility that routinely deals with medical images such as X-rays, CT scans and others, storage and accessibility had to be quick and practical to ensure optimal patient care. Unfortunately, KDMC had created a storage environment that treated departments such as radiology, cardiology and IT as separate entities, creating complexities that impeded its objectives.

“None of our systems were at the enterprise level. In fact most of our storage systems were low end, with 4-5 terabyte capacity,” says Phipps.

To move forward, KDMC decided to upgrade its picture archiving and communications system (PACS) to the Phillips Medical Systems EasyAccess PACS and, at the same time, restructure its ailing storage infrastructure.

Long-time partners Phillips and Sun worked with KDMC to design a deployment that would meet all of the medical center’s storage requirements going forward.

The hospital had a vision for its new PACS and storage environment. “We wanted to take a multi-tiered archival approach,” says Phipps.

KDMC had laid out some requirements:

  • A 4Gb Fibre Channel solution at the core;
  • Redundant and automatic backup of archival data;
  • Complete redundancy and roll over of archival file system data;
  • A system that was “open,” since the medical center had Windows, Linux and Unix platforms, and
  • Centralized management.

In late 2005, Sun delivered the centerpiece of the new infrastructure, the StorageTek FlexLine FLX380 enterprise storage system, a 4Gb Fibre Channel SAN with a 40 terabyte disk array. Sitting behind the SAN is a tape array with 1,600 tapes and 400 GB per tape, according to Phipps. There are both Fibre Channel and SATAdisks on the same 4Gb controller, with two 4100 and two 3900 Brocade switches.

The SAN stores radiology and cardiology PACS data and the document imaging system. In benchmark tests, the time to decompress and display a 30GB X-ray image decreased from 10 seconds to 3.5 seconds.

KDMC also runs IBM Blade Center Technology comprised of 40 blade servers that boot from the SAN, not internal disk. The facility had several Unix boxes that it used for product management, ordering, payroll and a large archive database, which it moved to the Blade Center. “Our goal is to put our large radiology database on the blade as well,” says Phipps.

In fact, over the last 12 months, the medical center has been adding one to two blade servers per month to its Blade Center. The IT department uses about 7 terabytes on the blades, consisting mostly of SQL databases and operating systems.

Backing It All Up

Today, the medical center has a redundant SAN, the StorageTek FlexLine FLX280 enterprise storage system, located in another building, where it mirrors critical data such as PACS and select blade servers. “We also have spare blade servers in this building for business continuity, or the data that we couldn’t live without for more than four hours,” Phipps explains.

The FLX280 currently holds about 15 terabytes of data. There’s also a second FLX280 that serves as an image cache for an ASM server with 40 terabytes of raw storage.

KDMC uses Tivoli for enterprise backup, which goes to a large pool on the SAN and then to tape. Backup times have gone from overnight to 1 1/2 to 2 hours, according to Phipps. The hospital currently uses the Sun StorageTek Streamline SL500 modular library system.

This year the facility is upgrading from a Sun StorageTek Streamline SL500 modular library system to a StorageTek SL850 modular library system. It is also adding 8 terabytes to the Flexline FLX380, according to Phipps.

The facility uses the Sun StorageTek SAM-FS software to provide a central point for administering the Sun storage subsystem. SAM-FS drives the ILM process, moving data between the Flexline arrays and the SL500 library automatically, based on policies set by KDMC’s IT department.

The IT department at KDMC created a new position to manage the SAN. Phipps reports that they will be installing various pieces of Sun StorageTek Enterprise Storage Manager Software. Currently, the medical center is using Sun StorageTek Business Analytics 5.0, formerly known as the Storability Global Storage Manager.

“It’s a nice tool that allows us to see everything in our SAN. We can do trending, poll backups, it automaps the Fibre fabric, and more, all from a single log on,” says Phipps.

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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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