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April 2019
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Is the healthcare industry entering the perfect storage storm?

A storm is brewing.

As we head into 2010 the healthcare sector is facing many challenges. Not only are budgets being cut but many institutions are faced with growing customer numbers. This means more customer data to manage. Sophisticated technology is also adding to the problem.

Doctors are seeing an increase in super-high resolution imaging technology for diagnosing and treating patients, which in turn is leading to ever more data to manage, secure and store. Every one of these issues is causing huge headaches for the IT managers. While UK hospitals need to grow their storage capacity, many lack the budget, physical space or even sufficient energy supplies to do this. It’s the perfect storage storm.

For the budget-challenged IT manager in the healthcare sector the need to do more with less has become a sudden and harsh reality.

In the past, radiology and cardiology departments were the primary users of medical imaging systems, picture archiving and communication systems (PACs), including CT scans, MRI, cardiac catheterizations and echocardiograms. But recently medical digital imaging has exploded into many more specialties in the medical sphere. Pathologists and dermatologists are among the new users. Images of tissue samples and skin lesions improve diagnosis and track the progress of patients’ treatments.

Also, new cancer diagnostic exams involving the latest medical imaging equipment, such as digital mammography, produce thousands of high-resolution images per study. But the practical ability for most hospitals to host more equipment to store and manage more data is being severely impacted by the expectation that many UK hospital datacenters are rapidly running out of space and power.

About five years ago, the average 500-bed hospital needed less than two terabytes of storage for its medical imaging. Today, it needs 50TB to 100TB for the average 150,000 to 200,000 imaging-related procedures done annually in these facilities.

Storage efficiency is, therefore, being cited as one of the biggest drivers for hospitals determining their storage spend this year and beyond. This was confirmed in a study by analyst research firm Enterprise Strategy Group. Its survey of 504 global storage professionals found that budget-conscious storage decisions in 2009 will be driven by efficiency. The survey also identified that specific efficiency-friendly technologies enabling data reduction, intelligent tiered storage and storage reservation were among the top priorities for the next 24 months.
Intelligent tiered storage is particularly important to the healthcare industry, as it can provide hospitals with a cost-effective way of centralising their image database and other storage resources. On top of the images, hospitals also store thousands of other files that must keep on file regardless of how big they get.

However, only a fraction of this data needs to be accessed frequently; the majority of files, once they pass their useful life, are never opened again. Tiered storage automatically moves the least accessed files to the lowest-cost tier of storage. Similarly, if an infrequently accessed file later becomes more popular, this will be moved back up to the faster, more expensive storage so that it could be accessed and downloaded more quickly.

Interest in fluid storage technologies like these clearly indicates a growing trend, indeed a flight, towards greater storage efficiency. By boosting the efficiency of their storage infrastructure hospitals can accommodate data growth within strictly limited budgets. And they can do all this using a smaller hardware footprint that in turn consumes less physical space and draws down less energy. When these technologies are combined, the compounded efficiencies can be dramatic and immediate.

It’s not uncommon to see 90 percent utilisation improvements over legacy storage capacities resulting in further significant reductions in energy needs.
It sounds simple enough but a major hurdle remains. Hospitals often find it very hard to break free from the traditional and large storage brands, now pilloried for their excessive inefficiencies, to which they’ve grown accustomed to using.

They are also reluctant to move when they look back at the high investment in training and other costs they’ve incurred. However, with the economy at the fore-front of all major spending decision there is now much greater pressure on IT managers to explore new options that deliver greater efficiency. The historical reluctance to transition from the big brands is starting to erode as value and efficiency move to the top of the priority list.

Annual storage requirements for many providers are increasing at a rate of 20% to 100%. Ballooning storage requirements have resulted in a number of challenges, from cost to disaster recovery to security and access issues. IT managers need to ramp up their knowledge of intelligent tiered storage as quickly as possible and ensure that it’s a central platform for their future storage strategy. Not only will this help solve their immediate problems of data growth, budget limits, space and energy, but it can just as directly benefit their hospital’s bottom line. In this period of economic uncertainty, a healthy obsession with efficiency will be the key to weathering the storm.

Additional Case Study – Compellent drives 90% energy saving at University College Hospital Galway

One of Ireland’s major academic teaching hospitals, Galway’s HSE University College Hospital, was experiencing vast IT requirements spread across the various departments and hospital sections.

By June of 2008 storage levels were at a critical level for UCHG and they were on the verge of running out of storage, and were close to capacity on the model of SAN they currently had. These problems were compounded further by the fact that their existing SAN was also past the end of its product life and could not be upgraded. The only option was to buy a new one. Their existing SAN vendor was happy to sell them a new SAN but there was no way of avoiding the same problems again over the next 3 years.

Through working with Origina’s Innovation & Development team UCHG devised a pioneering new storage framework for the entire organisation. Origina storage architects designed a solution built on Compellent Storage technologies that delivered a vast variety of benefits that solved the organisation’s storage problems and, moreover, facilitated their requirements into the future. Based on Compellent’s energy-efficient storage area network (SAN) the solution is saving the hospital 90% on power and cooling costs, and with no model range, the same SAN can be used until a 900TB capacity is reached.

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