Outpatient Medical Imaging provider outgrows NAS and steps up to an adaptive flash array

We met the CIO of a local company at a social event for community business leaders and in conversation, he asked what it is that Dataedge does.  When it came to the subject of data storage, he mentioned that his department was looking for additional NAS as they had outgrown their current one.  He felt that his hands were tied somewhat in the selection of a solution however because his software provider hadn’t certified very many.

As the discussion went on he described his business as an Outpatient Medical Imaging provider with 14 locations. Each of these locations had multiple modalities, ranging from X-Ray, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The amount of data generated by the scans was quickly depleting their current storage, but just as importantly, they were finding that the performance it was able to provide was too slow as well.  They asked Dataedge if we had a recommendation for general purpose NAS.

At Dataedge, we always seek to understand both the technical and business needs of our clients.  We sought to dig a little deeper into their situation by asking questions such as “why NAS, what are your other business needs looking at the next three to five years and what are the overall characteristics of your computing environment?”

They let us know that they weren’t happy with their backups and the would like to figure out a way to have a secondary site for disaster recovery purposes.  They also needed better speed for the guest operating systems on their VMware Datastores.

After understanding more of their needs, we recommended that they consider an adaptive flash array from Nimble.  While this deviated from their original desire for NAS, it did meet the larger set of needs for increased speed, a solution for datastore support as well as providing the option for both efficient snapshots and replication.

There was a hurdle to overcome with their application provider as they had never worked with anything but NAS in their configurations and were hesitant to spend time certifying something new.   By working together with all parties, Dataedge was able to communicate the benefits that Nimble would bring and educated the application provider on how Nimble Storage was being used in similar environments.

Once accepted and installed, it was first put to use as the image repository. The software manufacturer determined that the NAS function was they not really needed as they were serving the data to clients anyway.  The Radiologists and staff immediately noticed a great increase in speed when pulling up past images, all due to the Nimble predictive cache algorithms that anticipate needed blocks.  The saving of images when they were first created also increased due to the Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) file system in Nimble that confirms writes as soon as they are written to controller memory.

The next step was to configure the Nimble to be used as a target for VMWare datastores.  It was a simple matter of configuring the volumes and making an attachment to them from using the vSphere console.  Once attached the guest operating systems were moved to the Nimble using vMotion.  After implementation of the new storage, the System Administrator noticed how much faster the systems booted up.

Data Protection was implemented by configuring snapshots on both the guest systems as well as the image store. The guest systems were scheduled daily, and the image data was done every two hours.  Each snapshot took up very little additional room because the file system is virtualized and only the changed blocks were necessary to track.

The final step was to implement replication to cover their need for disaster recovery. The initial replication was done by placing both units in the same facility, and once complete, the DR target storage was moved to another location at one of their own offices.  Further writes were efficient and did not adversely affect network bandwidth as only block-level changes were transmitted after compression.

The client has been using this configuration for some time now and continues to be more than satisfied with the performance and ease of management that the Nimble gives them.  They are so glad that they didn’t just go with the NAS unit that they were originally asking for and very appreciative that Dataedge took the time to better understand their needs.