Integrating storage cuts down

By eweek  |  Posted 2006-05-22 Print this article Print

on downtime"> "The only thing we do is storage information structures on a day-to-day basis. That compares to a hospital community IT organization which knows how to serve staff," Clark said.

MTIs recommendation was to replace the older EMC unit with a Clariion CX500 array, which could house Fibre Channel and ATA drives in the same unit. While the new platform provided a path to scale with Gateways evolving data storage needs, it employed the same interface as the older model and had all the same control functions. That, in itself, simplified any kind of transition, Clark said.

Having one integrated platform to manage is easier than having two or three separate entities," Watts concurred. "It made it easy for us to make the leap without having to undertake a huge learning curve."

The next step in Gateways tiered storage architecture plan is to come up with an even-longer-term archival strategy, Watts said. The goal is to create an ILM (information management lifecycle) system, he said, where business-critical data sits on Fibre Channel drives for 45 days or less, is next offloaded to ATA drives for a year or two, and then eventually moves to a different type of archiving unit for the remainder of its tenure.

"That will keep us growing and give us the flexibility to hold all this data because the data doesnt stop growing," Watts said.

Another benefit of the tiered approach was a substantial decrease in the time needed to initiate full backup and restore cycles, according to MTIs Bocchinfuso. MTI orchestrated a backup-to-disk methodology, using EMCs SnapView and Replication Manager/SE tools, to take a point-in-time copy of critical data residing on the high-speed Fibre Channel drives and to replicate it to lower-cost ATA drives. A new automated tape library, StorageTeks L20-20, was also employed to stage the disk backups. The L20-20 uses StorageTek LTO2 Fibre Channel tape drives for near-line and off-site disaster recovery copies.

By reducing the amount of data to be backed up—for example, pulling static data out of the normal rotation—companies such as Gateway can also significantly cut back their backup windows, Bocchinfusco said.

In fact, the reduction in backup time was the area where Gateways user base felt the greatest benefit from the new storage platform, Watts said. Previously, running a full backup could take as much as 36 hours, which meant the IT team often had to sacrifice some of the restore procedures because it was short on time.

Being able to do the full backup in a time-efficient manner and have easy access to the archived backup files has meant that doctors, nurses and other health care professionals can get what they need without a lot of downtime. Previously, theyd have to pore through tape catalogs; determine which tape housed the information they required; contact a third-party off-site tape storage vendor; and, finally, make arrangements to retrieve the tape.

Now Gateway has two weeks of its most current backup on ATA drives stored online so it can deliver necessary information to hospital employees in roughly 5 minutes. "Time is money, especially in health care," Watts said. "If someone deletes a file and they call the help desk, we can now restore it quickly so they can get back to what theyre doing, which is providing patient care. Now all those steps are reduced to one."

Simplifying caregivers and administrators access to patient data is what its all about, said Watts: "We want to make sure that when a physician is looking for an image, we give them the image or data as quickly as humanly possible and as cost-effectively as possible. At the end of day, they dont care how much data were holding or what it costs to hold that data. They know what they need, and they want it quickly."

Beth Stackpole is a freelance writer based in Newbury, Mass. She can be reached at

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