Cisco Gold Partner Avnet Helps Exempla Healthcare Accelerate Storage Networking Solutions
September 28, 2004
By Cindy McDowell
Cisco® Gold Certified Partner Avnet Enterprise Solutions used its expertise in the healthcare industry to recommend, design, and deploy a multiprotocol storage networking solution for Exempla Healthcare. Based in Colorado, Exempla Healthcare needed the ability to replicate data among its three hospitals in addition to a disaster recovery system, and more storage space to support a picture archiving and communication system (PACS). Additionally, the PACS needed to meet new Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA) requirements for storing and moving patient records.
Avnet, with specializations from Cisco Systems® in IP Telephony, VPN/Security and VPN/Security Services, also participates in the Cisco Advanced Technology Program in optical and storage.
"Because of Avnet's history as a storage server integrator and being a Cisco Gold Partner, we have developed a real expertise in networking and server storage-focusing heavily on the healthcare industry-and we offer a deeper skill set than many other solutions integrators in our area," says Jim Teter, president of Avnet. "We have national reach, the capability to understand server storage and network products, and we're able to deliver the project."
For Exempla Healthcare, the project included a storage area network, PACS, and disaster recovery for its two existing hospitals and a new hospital under construction. Exempla also operates about a dozen clinics and a variety of corporate offices, so the solution needed to encompass about 15 buildings. The existing LANs throughout the Exempla campus had been expanded over time using products from multiple vendors, and the networks lacked the performance, stability, and reliability that Exempla needed to provide premier healthcare services.
"The new system was critical, not just for meeting HIPAA requirements, but for increasing the level and quality of the care we give our patients," says George Welton, vice president and CIO for Exempla Healthcare. "In order to move Exempla to a best-in-nation status, implementing these new systems was a critical step we had to take."
With the decision to deploy an end-to-end Cisco solution, Exempla Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Lots Pook and his staff began systematically replacing networks in the existing facilities and designing a new network for the Good Samaritan Medical Center that was starting construction. They chose a combination of the HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) and the Cisco MDS 9505 Multilayer Intelligent Director.
"An important enabling technology in this new [storage area network] SAN was Fibre Channel over IP, or FCIP, available through the Cisco MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module," says Teter. "This allowed us to extend Fibre Channel storage traffic over the existing IP network across all three hospital sites."
Besides the storage area network and PACS for Exempla, disaster recovery made up the third critical part of the solution. The vision behind Exempla's business continuance model is based on vendors providing most of its clinical information systems and having some failover or redundancy capability, but in one data center. With its three data centers, Exempla needed geographically dispersed protection.
"The Cisco network and HP hardware and servers all had to work together," says Welton. "Avnet Enterprise Solutions provided the project management skills to marry the two technologies and create a critical link for us to produce this repository of images and improve patient care."
Each organization saw different challenges with the SAN deployment. For Avnet, it was using new Cisco switches.
"We were excited about using the new switches, but you can only have so much experience with brand new products," says Teter. "Our engineers did a great job of delivering the SAN solutions on time and meeting Exempla's requirements."
For Exempla, the blending of cultures among the three hospitals was critical.
"Each of the three hospitals has a different culture, along with radiologists, technicians, and physicians that each have specific needs," says Pook. "[The goal is to] bring all these new technology solutions online without impacting the patient. Avnet has great vision and Jim [Teter] really shepherded this project and made the deployment a success."
With the successful SAN, PACS, and business recovery deployments at the two existing hospitals, and the third deployment scheduled for the hospital under construction, Exempla Healthcare is already achieving the goals it set out for the new systems.
"We're well-positioned to support our growth needs," says Welton. "We've forecasted that our storage needs will grow to 77 terabytes in three years, which the PACS will easily handle. And we're already seeing benefits of the business continuance and disaster recovery solution." Welton reports that the SAN allows his group to easily add disk drives without adversely affecting the power structure, and that the organization's portal solution for data replication is being distributed using the SAN technology and can achieve failover through the portal.
Pook and Welton say that the speed and availability of the new systems are the greatest benefits.
"If data is on paper, a physician is willing to wait hours for it," says Pook. "When it's delivered electronically, however, they want it immediately. We wanted to be able to deliver patient records and films as fast as possible and the new solutions allow us to do just that."
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Cindy McDowell is a freelance journalist located in Santa Cruz, CA.