Baptist Memorial Healthcare

With capacity needs rising, hospital turns to disk backup

May 3, 2005

4 Min Read
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When it comes to storage requirements, healthcare facilities get hit with the double whammy: Bound by tough compliance regulations, they also must deal with new technologies that generate a rapid growth of large digital files.

Regulations such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and technologies such as patient archiving communications systems (PACS) and multi-slice Computer Tomography (CT} scans have forced healthcare institutions to become early adopters of certain storage technologies (see Healthcare Seeks Storage Rx).

Take Baptist Memorial Healthcare, which spans 15 hospitals and approximately 12,000 employees across Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. IS systems engineer Hal Weiss says Baptist Memorial has gone from 1.5 Tbytes of SAN-based storage in 2001 to well over 100 Tbytes today, and is on its way to 1 Pbyte by 2009.

Last June I was charged with, ‘How are you going to protect all this data?’ ” Weiss says. “Frankly, I was stumped. Traditional tape backup won’t work. Unless you have an ungodly number of servers and [tape library] robots, and huge bandwidth, you can’t back up all that data in a reasonable time.”

Weiss decided to implement two disk-backup technologies -- virtual tape libraries (VTLs) and continuous data protection (CDP). He uses VTLs to improve the process of backing up to physical tape and CDP to replicate financial data (see B&S Insider Covers CDP and CDP: Calling It Right).For VTL, Weiss looked at systems from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), Quantum Corp. (NYSE: DSS), and startup Copan Systems Inc.

All four use FalconStor Software Inc.’s (Nasdaq: FALC) VTL software, but Weiss says he picked Copan’s Revolution 200T for its MAID (Massive Array of Idle Disks) architecture (see FalconStor's Feelin' It and Copan Sweeps Up $25M). He likes that he could fit 224 TB in a single cabinet. Also, only 25 percent of the drives spin at one time with Copan’s system, saving power and increasing life expectancy of the SATA drives.

“The performance was there for all of them, but [Copan] could give me the most amount of storage in a single-footprint cabinet,” he says. “I would have to buy four cabinets from anybody else to get the same capacity.”

Weiss decided on Copan in January. Then it was on to CDP. He didn’t have nearly as many choices, so Revivio Inc. was the only product he tried.

Baptist uses two Revivio Continuous Protection Systems (CPSs) to back up Oracle and SQL Server databases and will use them to move to a new payroll system (see Revivio Revs Up With $25M).“That’s just a technology I find absolutely fascinating,” he says of CDP. “We used it several times with our financial data to test what-if scenarios. We’re going to be moving to a new payroll system. That’s very traumatic: You do the installation, run things, find out what breaks, and then restore. CDP will let us find out what breaks in minutes, then we can do a restore.”

Even with VTL and CDP, Weiss says Baptist Memorial will stick with its HP tape libraries.

“There are cultural issues -- people who say, ‘Give me my data on tape, so I could put it in a drawer somewhere.’ Of course, they blithely ignore the fact that it’s probably not going to be readable.”

So having implemented VTL and CDP over the past few months, Weiss’s five-person staff should be able to relax for a while, right? Not exactly.

He’s looking at new software to centrally manage his SANs. Baptist is an HP shop, but it's still running storage systems going back to DEC and Compaq as well as an HP EVA midrange and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) TagmaStore system that HP sells as its high-end XP line. “Even though we’re all HP, there’s several different types of storage. I’m looking at bringing that all together under one reporting system.” Then it’s time to start working on HIPAA compliance. He says the hospital’s HIPAA deadlines are approaching.

“We haven’t gotten into regulatory stuff yet. We’re just getting into HIPAA compliance. Probably within eight months we’ll have a better understanding of how much data we will have to retain.”

Although he’s an early adopter of CDP and TagmaStore, Weiss doesn’t dispute the reputation healthcare has for being conservative when it comes to storage technologies. He says healthcare can’t afford to be too far ahead of the curve.

“Healthcare is generally very conservative, and Baptist is sometimes more so,” he says. “Financial institutions and others can move quickly because if it blows up on them and they lose something, it is just money. In healthcare, if you lose data, that lost data could impact somebody’s health. The value of our data is completely different than financial data."

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch0

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