If you’ve looked for something on the Web you’ve most likely spent some time staring at a blank screen waiting for a page to load.

You can feel your frustration grow as each second passes, each one seemingly longer than the last. Now imagine you’re not waiting for a fan site to load, but a doctor

waiting for diagnostic images to appear and you have to wait for close to a minute.

This was the situation facing Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ont. According to vice-president and chief financial officer responsible for IT Dan Germain, its grab bag of storage equipment was delaying access to medical information. The need for an overhaul was identified three years ago.

“”We knew we were going to be expanding the facility and we were going to have new out-patient and in-patient services being delivered,”” he says. “”Our current infrastructure wasn’t going to be able to handle that volume of business.””

A number of possible solutions were considered, but a storage area network (SAN) was deemed best suited to the hospital’s growing needs. Germain says any potential vendor would have to be compatible with medical software from Meditech and a picture archiving communications system (PACS) from Agfa. After soliciting proposals, IBM Canada was awarded the contract.

Big Blue began installing the SAN in August with an end-of-November deadline. The components consisted of an Enterprise Storage Server (a.k.a. Shark) 800 with 8TB of disc space, Fibre Channel switches, NAS 300G Model G26 gateway and a 3584 Ultrium UltraScalable Tape Library.

“”What they did was a consolidation of technologies that existed, but not in a coordinated fashion,”” says Kyle Foster, general manager storage sales for IBM Canada. “”They basically had storage separately for patient administration, storage separately for digital images. They had different tape formats. They had functional systems, but the real pain it caused for them was they couldn’t scale easily.””

Foster says the system can scale to hundreds of terabytes due to the range the diagnostic images its staff uses.

“”The CAT scans, the radiology and cardiology data that in days gone by would have existed on film is now being stored digitally on the Shark and the LTO infrastructure and kept for literally the life of the patient,”” he says.

Germain says not only were image and document scans going to be stored on the SAN, but applications as well. This includes e-mail (half a terabyte), financials, payroll and a number of standard office productivity tools.

“”My major concern was ensuring the storage area network would be certified with our software,”” Germain says. “”We wanted to ensure that this would work, and we needed the guarantees from IBM that it would work and the certification process would happen quickly and on time.””

IBM managed to do Credit valley one better and came in ahead of schedule, Germain says, and hospital staff on both sides of the technology are reaping the benefits. Health care providers and administrators have seen retrieval time for documents and scans has been reduced from up to 45 seconds to one or two, he says, while IT staff no longer have to spend time rebuilding databases and attending to failed systems.

Administrators should see the benefit over the coming months in the form of savings. Germain says maintenance costs are already dropping thanks to a more reliable system.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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