Case Studies

     

A Clean Bill of Health for Storage

healthcare hand smallAn Oregon-based clinic is committed to offering its patients the highest quality of care, and devotes its IT resources to supporting that goal.

When lagging performance of its legacy storage system caused frequent and severe slowdowns in key applications used by caregivers, the clinic installed an all-flash array from Pure Storage. Since then, performance problems have disappeared, implementation of a virtual desktop infrastructure has moved forward successfully, and the IT staff spends virtually no time managing storage.

PURE STORAGE GIVES CLINIC A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH

With more than 130 doctors covering 30 specialities, the physician-owned clinic strives to be the most trusted partner in the region for comprehensive care, reflected in its brand and reputation.

Like many healthcare organizations, the clinic is applying advanced technology to improve patient outcomes while making business operations more efficient. The IT infrastructure is 100% virtualized, with servers running on VMware® vSphere® and thin clients supported on a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) with Citrix® XenDesktop®.

For many years, the Clinic used Allscripts for its electronic health record (EHR) software, but in 2015 decided to switch to Epic. In preparation for the change, Epic conducted a review of their IT infrastructure to identify potential areas of improvement in performance and operational efficiency. One of the areas identified was the clinic’s storage infrastructure, which they already knew had problems.

“We had very inconsistent performance across our storage network,” recalled the IS infrastructure manager for the clinic. “There was a lot of contention for resources in the array, and when that would happen we’d see huge slowdowns across the board — very high latency, very slow delivery of applications and files. On an almost daily basis we were seeing huge performance problems.”

The people most affected by these problems were patient-facing providers like doctors and nurses, who were experiencing long delays in accessing patient records or other key medical information. Ultimately, the delays extracted a cost in terms of patient satisfaction and provider productivity. “And if anyone wanted to run a report during the work day, forget it!”

“CRAZY” CLAIMS FOR PURE STORAGE JUSTIFIED

The IT team tried numerous tactics to mitigate the problems caused by the legacy storage system, “but at the end of the day it’s still spinning disk, and there’s only so many IOPS to go around.” The infrastructure manager articulated the dilemma he faced: “I don’t need more capacity, but if I want to get the performance I needed, I have to buy more disks.”

The IT team wanted to know more about flash technology. After talking to a number of storage suppliers, as well as IT departments at other healthcare organizations, the clinic asked Pure Storage to provide details on the performance a customer might expect from its products.

At first we thought the numbers Pure Storage gave us were crazy,” he recalled. “But we talked to customer references and they confirmed that these numbers — for key metrics like latency, bandwidth and IOPS — were what they saw in their own shops.”

Pure Storage offered an array for a proof-of-concept trial, but the IT team declined. “We had done our homework; we had seen a demo and talked to customers who already were using Pure, so we had verification of its claims, and we knew what we wanted.” A Pure Storage FlashArray was purchased.

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EASY INSTALLATION FOLLOWED BY SHARPLY IMPROVED PERFORMANCE

Installation of the Pure Storage array took about two hours, which far exceeded expectations. The clinic’s previous spinning-disk system took two days to deploy. “Pure is so simple. You plug it in, zone it, and you’re off to the races.” Data and applications were migrated onto the Pure array in phases, but only because the legacy storage system could not match the high data-transfer rates of Pure.

Installation of the Pure Storage array “had an immediate impact on end-users,” the clinic staff reported. Log-in times for virtual desktops “went from 1½ minutes to nothing. Since we installed Pure, we’ve had zero support tickets related to poor performance.”

The clinic now runs all of its applications — with the exception of imaging — on Pure Storage. As a result, latency levels are consistently less than 1ms across all environments.

But the biggest impact from moving to Pure Storage, IS infrastructure manager added, was in the Citrix XenDesktop VDI environment. “We had held back our deployment of VDI because we were taking a performance hit on the network side in order to support the virtual desktops. But with Pure installed, we no longer had to make that tradeoff.”

The productivity of IT managers also has been improved. “It now takes us just 20 minutes to re-create 400 virtual machines. And, we were able to virtualize Dragon (the voice-recognition software) on VDI, which we weren’t able to do before,” because of latency problems in the storage.

To extend storage capacity, the Pure Storage de-duplication and compression features mean “we have been able to put so much more on the array than we ever thought possible,” saving on capital costs as well as operating expenses. Total data reduction has been 10:1 across all applications.

With storage-related problems a thing of the past, the IT team were able to successfully complete the transition to Epic software.

STORAGE MANAGEMENT GREATLY SIMPLIFIED

Deploying Pure Storage has resulted in “greatly simplified” storage management, the clinic reported. “We don’t have to spend precious time and resources isolating workloads. We just set up VMs, attach them to a data store on Pure, and we’re good to go. It makes life a lot easier for the IT team.”

The Pure Storage management simplicity means that storage administration tasks can be shared among the four-person IT staff regardless of whether anyone has a background in storage. “We no longer have to worry about complex tasks like partitioning workloads, or verifying that there’s enough storage for a LUN. With the spinning-disk system there were severe limits on how you could use storage that wouldn’t be evident to a VM administrator. But with Pure, it’s so much easier.”

The clinic’s IT team now spends, at most, 1% of their workweek on storage-related tasks.

In the year since acquiring its Pure Storage array, the clinic has done two major software upgrades and added another shelf to the array — all accomplished during production hours with no interruption or impact on users. “In fact,” the IS infrastructure manager added, “we didn’t even do the software upgrade ourselves. Pure did them for us, remotely.”

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