All-flash array helps senior community keep pace with electronic records

While upgrading to electronic records, St. Ann's Community picked Astute Networks ViSX G4 all-flash array to speed performance.

As part of its move to upgrade its technology to electronic records and imaging, St. Ann's Community adopted an all-flash array to improve storage performance and data accessibility.

St. Ann's Community has been serving seniors in Rochester, N.Y., for over 140 years. St. Ann's CIO, David Moufarrege, said that as a housing and health system that provides mostly rehabilitation and long-term care services, St. Ann's does not have as much need for digital storage resources as hospitals that keep electronic images, such as PACS and CT scans, online. But St. Ann's recently added an electronic health record (EHR) system, and more digital images will be coming online soon.

"We don't have the huge amount of storage needs that hospitals have, but that's changing, and changing rapidly," he said. "In the last two-and-a-half years, we have made a 15-year transition in what technologies have been used here."

Before the EHR system, Moufarrege dealt mostly with file storage. But to accommodate the performance needs associated with the HealthMEDX Vision EHR system, St. Ann's went live in January with an Astute Networks ViSX G4 all-flash array, which stores the SQL database used for EHR. The ViSX G4 is a 2U iSCSI system that holds 24 solid-state drives (SSDs) for up to 45.6 TB of raw capacity.

"We didn't buy ViSX for traditional storage," Moufarrege said. "There's no reason to use this kind of performance for files. Who cares if a Word document takes 15 seconds to load? But you have a real-time need in a clinical center when you're retrieving patient records."

He said the ViSX can hit 140,000 IOPS, greatly increasing access time and increasing EHR performance from "very slow before the ViSX implementation to now being very snappy." St. Ann's also uses the ViSX as storage for its Citrix XenServer images.

"Productivity has gone through the roof there too," Moufarrege said of the virtual server storage. "On a 15,000 rpm hard drive, you might get 250 IOPS, and ViSX increased that to 140,000 IOPS."

Moufarrege said he met with Astute representatives at a CIO conference last year, and they offered him a testing unit. When he saw the performance, he was sold.

"In healthcare, you're not typically an early adopter," he said. "You want to make sure it works -- you want somebody to make the mistakes first. But this passed the initial test, then we did a real test, and it works."

St. Ann's still uses its Hewlett-Packard MSA systems for files. Moufarrege said he also mirrors between the ViSX and an MSA system at the system's second campus, using SIOS DataKeeper block-level replication software. "That allows us at a block level to write the same item to the other site so we have a real-time clone of our databases on there," he said.

Moufarrege said he may eventually add a ViSX at the second campus as a mirror target. He also plans to add SSD capacity as more electronic records come online. He will keep data on the ViSX for a pre-determined period of time before moving it to an archiving system. "Imaging will be the big thing -- what happens when we have X-rays online and CT scans online? That will be the test for capacity," he said.

Moufarrege offers the flash array as a sign that St. Ann's Community is making progress with technology.

"I see flash as a disruptive technology," he said. "This type of technology wouldn't have been available five years ago. Even 18 months ago, it would've been too expensive for this application. The biggest hurdle is [whether] your traditional controller handle that amount of throughput? Astute has its own controller design to avoid the bottleneck. It's a Porsche."

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