Top UK Hospitals Get Set for Storage Growth

St. Helens & Knowsley NHS Trust eyes rapid ROI from its storage upgrade

August 16, 2008

4 Min Read
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One of the U.K.s top health care organizations is looking for a speedy ROI after a major overhaul of its SAN infrastructure, which slashed its backup times and overhauled its disaster recovery strategy.

The St. Helens & Knowsley Trust, which is located in the north of England, has been rated as one of the top organizations within the country’s National Health Service (NHS), and provides free health care to around half a million patients a year.

With about 1,000 beds in its Whiston and St.Helens hospitals, the Trust provides data storage for around 10,000 users in the Merseyside area, but realized last year that its existing SAN infrastructure needed a major overhaul.

”In terms of capacity, we had to do something,” explains Phil Corrin, the Trust’s assistant director for Informatics, explaining that its two 15-Tbyte HP EVAs were almost three quarters full. “[But] we didn’t do the simple thing of upgrading the SANs.”

Instead, Corrin and his team opted to add an archiving system to the existing infrastructure, deploying two 30-Tbyte NetApp SAN boxes and Symantec backup software.“What we wanted to do was provide ourselves with some flexibility,” he says. “We could have easily upgraded those SANs, but 60 percent of the data on those SANs was not used, so we wanted to archive that.”

Working with systems integrator B2net, the St. Helens & Knowsley Trust deployed the NetApp SAN devices and Symantec software in March, and went live at the end of July.

By archiving infrequently accessed data onto the NetApp boxes, and using disk-to-disk backup, Corrin and his team have been able to dramatically improve their backup window. Previously, he explained, the Trust was backing up from EVA to EVA, and then to tape, although data can now be quickly sent to the NetApp hardware.

”Before, it was running for nearly 12 hours in terms of a full backup, but that has been cut in half with the work that we have done, and we hope to get that down to about four or five hours,” he says. “Because we bought so much storage on the NetApp devices, we now have a lot of free disk space where we can do daily live backups.”

Like all health care organizations, St. Helens & Knowsley measures its technology performance in terms of staff efficiency and patient care.”Being able to cut the [backup] window is incredibly reassuring for the staff,” explains Corrin. “We were having some issues where backups would over-run and this caused issues for some file services and log-on processes, but that has been alleviated.”

The exec told Byte and Switch that the NetApp hardware and Symantec software cost around $1 million, although he feels that the trust is getting a speedy return on its investment.

”We will get an ROI almost immediately because we didn’t have to upgrade our SAN,” says Corrin, adding that it could have cost just as much to add additional capacity to the EVAs.

St. Helens & Knowsley nonetheless shopped around before settling on NetApp and Symantec.

“We looked across the board at HP, EMC, and IBM archiving solutions,” he says. “The reason that we went with Symantec and NetApp was purely around the flexibility of being able to use the disk storage for other means – EMC and HP were essentially appliances that were purely archiving solutions with storage.”If St. Helens & Knowsley wanted, for example, to turn the NetApp hardware into Tier 1 storage, this would be easy to do, according to Corrin.

”If we want to change our direction with the HP EVAs, we have the flexibility to use the NetApp storage that we purchased, if necessary,” he says, adding that the storage upgrade has also improved the Trust’s disaster recovery.

Whereas, previously, one EVA was located in the Trust’s Whiston data center, and another in its St. Helens data center, the NetApp hardware is also deployed at sites in nearby Halton and Warrington.

“We have [also] installed the NetApp kit in some of our other health community sites - it’s in two main data centers and two smaller data centers,” says Corrin. “[So] it’s a third level of DR.”

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  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Symantec Corp.

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