McData Supplies UNMH Storage Cure

Transitioning to digitized patient records and medical imagery caused an explosive demand for storage for The University of New Mexico Hospitals healthcare network. A look at how McData switches and a director met their needs.
Posted April 19, 2006
By

Drew Robb

Drew Robb


The SAN switch market is certainly showing some healthy signs. According to Dell’Oro Group, existing SAN users have increased the amount of backup they require and want to backup to multiple locations. This has ramped up demand in SAN-related gear such as switches.

Further, the legislative picture is propelling more and more users into the storage arena. Executives are finding that new rules hold them responsible for retaining certain information. That’s when they call up the storage department and start insisting on large quotas and longer retention periods.

“The growth in the SAN switch market has taken on multiple dimensions,” says Tam Dell’Oro, an analyst with Dell’Oro Group. “SANs are often used to back up the crown jewels so these companies can’t afford them going down.”

Case in point: The University of New Mexico Hospitals (UNMH) healthcare network decided to digitize its patient records and radiology department. UNMH comprises five hospitals and seven family clinics. It provides care to thousands of patients daily in the Albuquerque metropolitan area.

The upgrade project was aimed at offering doctors and technicians much improved levels of access to medical information and images such as X-ray, ultra-sound, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and CT scans. IT staff opted for a unified SAN fabric to better integrate its storage. The various storage networks around the campus are fused together by a McData director and several McData fabric switches, as well as some EMC CLARiiON storage arrays and a StorageTek tape backup library. In addition, a new remote disaster recovery facility provides 24-hours, seven-days a week uptime for critical systems.

“It became clear that we needed to build a solid infrastructure to support the explosion of data that we expected the system to generate,” says Mike Campbell, director of PC systems and support for UNM Hospitals. “We needed to think like an enterprise and intelligently plan for this growth.”

Digital Records

Paper processes were consuming a lot of time at UNMH. Hours were being wasted in retrieving paper files or couriering them across the hospital or between buildings. Similarly, using film to store X-ray, CT scan and MRI images was costly and slow. It became obvious that operations could be streamlined and patient care improved by reducing their reliance on paper and replacing film with digital images.

The first step was to purchase a Picture Archive and Communication Systems (PACS) system from Philips Medical Systems. Unfortunately, this system’s capabilities exceeded the existing IT infrastructure. Two non-integrated and aging SANs could not to provide the data accessibility, performance and stability needed to deliver digital records and images on demand.

The IT department envisioned a storage environment that could facilitate a large flow of data between disparate systems and be scaled up to meet storage expansion. At the same time, the storage fabric would have to be able to allocate resources without having to over-provision capacity or performance. This necessitated the changing out of some older storage routers and moving up into director-class equipment.

When you get up into that category, McData tends to win a lot of bids. According to Dell’Oro, Brocade is the undisputed SAN switch market leader with 47.4 percent, followed by McData on 28.6% and Cisco on 14.9%. But at the high-end, it is another story. McData rules the market for SAN directors with a 44 percent share.

“We went with McData because we felt they knew the space better and their product was more reliable,” says Campbell.

UNM Hospitals deployed a McData Intrepid 6064 director to facilitate the flow of information between three Fibre Channel EMC storage arrays and a StorageTek tape backup library. The i6064 is available in 4-port increments (up to 140 ports/unit) and supports 2 Gb/sec FICON and FIbre Channel. The hospital also deployed several McData Sphereon fabric switches to direct data to specific applications. The newest generation of Sphereon offers 1, 2 and 4 Gbps speeds.

Two EMC CLARiiON FC-4700 arrays support the email, file serving and Oracle and SQL database systems while an EMC CLARiiON CX500 supports the data-intensive PACS system.

IT staff also set up a remote disaster recovery facility using a McData Sphereon 4400 switch across the street from the main hospital. The 8- to 16-port Sphereo 4400 offers 4 Gbps performance Fibre Channel connectivity in a half a rack width.

As a result, Medical records and PACS systems can now be kept up and running in case of a natural disaster or network outage. In addition, the backup and recovery process has been made more efficient. Campbell estimates that by running backup through the storage fabric his team saves six to eight hours per week.

This new storage environment has been a big success. It allows doctors and other healthcare personnel throughout the hospital network to access patient records and medical images either from 37 high-end radiology workstations or by using one of the many thousand desktops around the campus. Fast access to medical information reduces the time it takes for diagnosis.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.






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