Hospital Saves With Server Shakeup

IT director expects an ROI of $2.4M thanks to major server consolidation effort

October 28, 2005

3 Min Read
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Storage Networking World -- Mention "earthquake" to most IT managers and the color will drain from their faces, but Bud James, technical services director at the El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., expects to shave more than $2 million off his IT costs thanks to seismic threats.

Located close to both the San Andreas and Monte Vista faults, the hospital is being rebuilt to boost its ability to withstand earthquakes. Rather than seeing this as a source of stress, James tells NDCF that it has been a golden opportunity. The new hospital for us was a terrific change agent -- people could grudgingly move along with that,” he says, referring to the difficulty IT managers often face pushing through major projects.

The construction work has also opened the door to big cost savings. “We’re estimating that we have saved about $1.2 million,” says James, thanks largely to a server consolidation push. This figure could reach $2.4 million when the project is complete in 2007.

When the consolidation started in 2002, El Camino relied on 160 servers; James and his team have slashed this figure to around 100. ”The fewer servers you have, the better. We can put new applications onto our server farm without buying new hardware.”

In the past, rolling out new applications was a big hassle, thanks, in part, to the hospital’s reliance on a number of machines based on Novell Inc. (Nasdaq: NOVL) software. James acknowledged that Novell has a “great” directory model, but added that “there aren’t that many applications that use it.”With the hospital increasingly looking to Web services applications, El Camino has become a predominantly Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows site. Although El Camino still uses one Novell server, James hopes to get rid of this by the end of the year, and is also looking to reduce his reliance on Unix servers. The exec expects to end up with around 110 servers, most of which will be Windows-based.

Would all this have been possible without the rebuilding? “Absolutely not,” says James. “Neither would I have the funding for it.”

But servers are only one part of El Camino’s technology overhaul. James has also turned his attention to storage, building a 35-TByte storage area network (SAN) to more effectively manage the hospital’s data. This uses Clarion 700 and CX 600 devices from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC). An L180 tape library from Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK) is connected to the SAN for backups.

Data center consolidation is a major undertaking for any organization, let alone a hospital slap bang in the middle of an earthquake zone. For this reason, James used two universal power supply (UPS) systems when migrating servers over to the new buildings.

El Camino has also built an earthquake warning system for staff. James explained that a sensor technology called QuakeGuard has been deployed in the new hospital buildings, which sends out a warning when a quake is imminent. “It’s enough time to tell a surgeon to ‘clamp off’ and get his scalpel out of a patient,” he said.The hospital has also been careful to choose a disaster recovery site in a safe, faraway location, connected to the hospital’s data center via an OC3 link. “We created a disaster recovery site in Irvine, Calif. -- not in the San Andreas area."

James was not the only attendee at SNW to highlight the trauma of pushing through major projects, which is clearly a source of anxiety for IT chiefs. (See Ogilvy Keynoter Cites Human Challenge and USAF Issues Storage Challenge.)

Last week the security chief at financial giant Prudential Financial also admitted that getting end-user approval for technology change is easier said than done. (See Prudential Preaches Pragmatism.)

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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