EMC Has Prescription for NBHN Storage Ills

The North Bronx Healthcare Network turns to ILM and server consolidation to rein in data.

Faced with managing 100TB of data on almost 100 dispersed application servers, the North Bronx Healthcare Network needed a solution to cure its storage ills.

Three years ago, the Bronx, N.Y., health care network began deployment of a multitiered, hierarchical storage setup that has so far enabled NBHN to significantly reduce its required backup window—by 55 percent for full backups and by almost 85 percent for incremental backups.

As the health care network begins to support policy-based ILM (information lifecycle management) later this year, Daniel Morreale, CIO of NBHN, said he expects to lower management costs further while reducing total cost of ownership.

NBHN is one of six regional networks that belong to the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. With two hospitals and five day-treatment centers, NBHN handles roughly 47,000 inpatient discharges, about 1 million outpatient discharges and 190,000 emergency department visits per year.

A pioneer in using electronic medical records, NBHNs sensitive data had mushroomed to 100TB, including patient records and X-rays. With ever more data to be stored, NBHNs system, developed in-house, was having a hard time managing the load. Morreale knew that automation was key to keeping the IT infrastructure under control with a staff of 43.

Based on the recommendations of an IT consultancy, NBHN deployed a hierarchical networked storage infrastructure that supports policy-based ILM. After looking at solutions from a variety of vendors, Morreale settled on an EMC Corp. architecture.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about how EMC is leading the ILM charge.

Building the system, which accommodates everything from NAS (network-attached storage) to WORM storage, took two years, from 2002 to 2004, Morreale said.

NBHN servers now support almost 200TB of storage, including medical records, on Microsoft Corp. Exchange and SQL servers, Oracle Corp.s Oracle Database, and other applications. The infrastructure provides centralized storage to a range of servers running Windows NT, EMCs Data General Unix, IBMs AIX and Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris.

NBHN uses a 30TB EMC Symmetrix DMX-based SAN (storage area network) to house patient-critical data and to support high-transaction applications. The SAN also provides pooled virtualized storage for servers running different operating systems.

When NBHN implements policy-based ILM in March, it will begin to transfer nearly all data to an EMC Celerra NS600 midrange NAS system every six months. (NBHNs clinical information system, which includes patient transactions, will permanently reside on the SAN.) After three years, select SAN data and all NAS data will be moved to EMC Centera disk-based content-addressable storage.

NBHN will use EMCs Legato and ControlCenter open-management software in April to manage the data migration from SAN to NAS, Morreale said. Incremental backups, which occur throughout the day, take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour for the largest database. A full backup on every system occurs once a week under the new system, he said.

Although Morreale made the decision to centralize NBHNs storage before HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) security and privacy issues came into effect, the EMC system meets HIPAAs requirements, he said.

Currently, the entire storage infrastructure is housed in one secure computer center on-site. In July Morreale will begin to back up business-customer volumes and store those at a second site, enabling real-time replication of critical data.

"We really dont know what our growth is going to be, but we know our storage needs will grow faster than we expected," Morreale said. "Now were able to manage and support the growth."

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.

/zimages/2/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and small business storage hardware and software.