News Release

Columbus Regional Hospital Builds Multiprotocol SAN with Cisco MDS 9509

iSCSI Will Help Hospital to Network Three Times as Many Servers than with Fibre Channel Alone
Apr 26, 2004

SAN JOSE, Calif., April 26, 2004 - Columbus Regional Hospital (CRH), a regional referral hospital serving multiple counties in southeastern Indiana, expects to more than tripled the numbers of servers networked onto to its storage area network (SAN) using the multiprotocol and virtual SAN (VSAN) capabilities available in Cisco MDS 9509 Multilayer Intelligent Director than the hospital had originally planned for by using legacy, Fibre Channel-only switches.

By networking more servers onto the SAN, CRH's IT department will improve operational efficiency and lower costs by increasing its overall storage utilization rates, streamlining the data backup process, and reducing the number of individually contained storage resources it had to manage, also known as directly attached storage, or DAS.

"In our initial SAN design, we had planned to use Fibre Channel technology to network less than six percent of our entire server infrastructure with the sole purpose of providing our employees high-performance access to the hospital's PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) radiology imaging application," said Steve Baker, technical services manager at CRH. "By integrating iSCSI technology, we found a cost-effective way that will help us network an additional 20 percent of our midrange servers and their applications, for many of which using Fibre Channel would have been too cost prohibitive."

To build its multiprotocol SAN, CRH deployed a combination of Cisco MDS 9000 Fibre Channel modules and the Cisco MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module, which provided access to iSCSI technology. Offering throughput of up to two gigabits per second, Fibre Channel is the most popular protocol used to connect servers to storage devices in SANs today. Based on Gigabit Ethernet technology, iSCSI is an emerging storage-interconnect protocol that operates over standard TCP/IP networks.

As with many customers who have deployed a multiprotocol SAN using the Cisco MDS 9000, CRH used Fibre Channel to network high-performance servers and mission-critical applications while using iSCSI to network its Microsoft Windows server environment running midrange applications that did not require the same level of performance of Fibre Channel. CRH chose the Microsoft iSCSI Architecture integrated with its Windows servers for iSCSI transport, due to ease of integration. The iSCSI-to-Fibre Channel protocol conversion intelligence within the Cisco MDS 9509 provided access for the iSCSI-enabled servers to the hospital's EMC CLARiiON CX 600 Fibre Channel storage array.

To manage the multiple applications operating on the same SAN, CRH turned to the Cisco MDS 9000 VSAN technology that provided the required fault isolation and data segregation. Similar in concept to virtual LAN (VLAN) technology so prevalent in data networking, VSANs can logically partition a single, physical SAN into many, completely independent fabrics. End users benefit by being able to provide different fabric services (worldwide names, zoning, e.g.) for each application on the SAN while gaining the operational efficiency of having to manage only one physical fabric.

"We have taken advantage of VLAN technology to logically segment our IP networks for years, so we immediately understood how to apply VSANs in our storage network," Baker said. "VSAN technology is one important example of the intelligent networking-based services not available in competing products that ultimately influenced our decision in favor of the Cisco MDS 9000."

Future SAN initiatives at CRH include using the Cisco MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module's support for Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) transport protocol to interconnect remote data centers within the region for business continuity and disaster recovery purposes.