The March issue of Tech OnTap debuts the first in a number of interviews with NetApp® clustered Data ONTAP® customers across various industries on why they chose our solution, how they upgraded from 7-Mode, and how the upgrade changed their operations.
If you’re not familiar with clustered Data ONTAP, see sidebar, Learn More about Clustered Data ONTAP, for links to past Tech OnTap articles from the archives.
The healthcare industry is under immense pressure to transform IT operations. New technologies, increased regulations, and the ongoing move to electronic medical records (EMRs) are resulting in massive amounts of healthcare data that needs to be stored and protected for extended periods of time.
More than 3,500 healthcare organizations worldwide depend on storage solutions from NetApp. Many choose clustered Data ONTAP to protect critical medical data from both planned and unplanned downtime, while delivering advanced data management that enables them to accomplish more in less time—and with less budget.
For this month’s issue, we sat down with Tony Beaird, director of Infrastructure and Security at DuPage Medical Group (DMG) to discuss why his team chose clustered Data ONTAP, the process they went through to upgrade from 7-Mode, and the overall benefits from both an IT and an end-user perspective.
Source: NetApp, 2015
TOT: Why did DMG choose a multinode clustered Data ONTAP configuration and FlexPod?
Tony: We chose clustered Data ONTAP to address two primary concerns: high availability and upgradability. Our IT infrastructure serves 50+ separate medical facilities, so it’s critical for us to eliminate downtime—both planned and unplanned. The HA architecture and nondisruptive operations capabilities of clustered Data ONTAP let us do that. We can upgrade or do other maintenance without our users ever knowing that anything has happened.
We have one cluster in each data center with four nodes per cluster. I like the idea of having multiple storage nodes so that I can load balance workloads across them. That’s a feature we use a lot.
We chose FlexPod because of the level of integration between NetApp and Cisco—the way all the pieces fit together—and we also appreciate having “one number to call.” If something goes wrong, we only have to make one phone call. We’ve had instances where we have needed help, and the FlexPod cooperative support model, which includes VMware, Citrix, and Red Hat in addition to NetApp and Cisco, has worked well. Almost everything now runs in the FlexPod/clustered Data ONTAP environment.
Figure 1) DuPage Medical Group clustered Data ONTAP deployment.
Source: NetApp, 2015
TOT: How did you upgrade from 7-Mode to clustered Data ONTAP?
Tony: When we began our transition in February 2013, we had two IBM N-Series storage systems running in 7-Mode. (N-Series were NetApp systems sold through an OEM agreement.) However, we weren’t just changing from 7-Mode to clustered Data ONTAP, we were doing an almost complete physical to virtual migration of our server environment at the same time.
To accomplish the storage migration, we worked with our partner Meridian IT; they provided us with a DTA2800, which allowed us to migrate the data from the old SAN environment. Because in many cases we were re-building systems in the process—new Exchange servers, new SQL servers, and so on—it was often just a matter of moving the data over once the new application environment was ready.
The whole transition took us ten months, which I consider pretty fast. A lot of people were shocked that we did it that quickly. There were some painful moments, but that’s because we have a lot of complicated systems, not because the storage transition was difficult.
TOT: What advantages do you get from this solution?
Tony: We have seen a number of benefits in the areas of flexibility, high availability, ease of management, ROI, and the end-user experience.
Flexibility. One of the key things that this solution gives us is the flexibility to absorb new acquisitions. DMG typically makes several acquisitions a year. With our FlexPod/clustered Data ONTAP environment we can spin up additional servers and add new users with minimal impact to our existing operations.
The environment scales easily. As we grow, we can add compute capacity as we need it, and we can scale-up storage by adding capacity or scale-out storage by adding nodes. We recently added 87TB to each of our FlexPods to provide additional archive space for PACS imaging data. With DataMotion for Volumes we were able to reallocate space and move things around without end users ever being aware that anything had changed.
High availability (HA). Our mandate from our executive leaders was to provide HA wherever possible. We run our data centers in as much of an active/active configuration as we can without paying the cost for a full active/active configuration. We use SnapMirror to replicate data between data centers, which allows us to keep both sites up to date. Each data center runs at 50 percent load, so that if a failure does occur, the other data center can take over the full load. We had a DR scenario last year, and the business was able to resume full operation in a matter of minutes. This is a huge difference from where we were two years ago.
Ease of management. Because we’re now almost 100 percent virtual, and because of the tight integration between VMware and NetApp, we’re able to accomplish a lot of NetApp work through vCenter—resizing and moving volumes, scheduling Snapshot copies, those types of things. It’s a much easier, much more fluid environment to work in now.
I only have two full-time employees managing servers and storage. If the team is busy or someone is on vacation, I can go in and accomplish what needs to be done, even though I’m no longer “hands-on” on a day-to-day basis.
Return on Investment (ROI). The transition from physical to virtual has delivered a tremendous return on investment. Over the last two and a half years we’ve saved $600,000 to $800,000 just in server purchases. It’s harder to quantify the savings from not expanding our data centers, but we haven’t needed to expand. Our overall footprint has actually gotten smaller. And, from an administrative point of view, my team is able to do more because the infrastructure is easier to work with. We’re growing IT much faster than we’re growing our IT staff.
End-user experience. From a user point of view, the new environment is a lot faster and a lot more reliable than what our users were used to. Citrix login times dropped from a minute or more (worst case) to 15 to 20 seconds. We can provision a server in a matter of hours. Better performance, better availability, and greater flexibility translate to much happier users.
TOT: What advice would you give IT Teams looking at clustered Data ONTAP?
Tony: If you’re thinking about moving to clustered Data ONTAP, I’d say run don’t walk, but at the same time I would say plan well. If you do things right from the beginning, the benefits you’ll get are so much greater.
As for FlexPod, when I first started here, we had about 200 servers. We’re now running somewhere between 800 and 1,000 servers. The environment is almost unlimited. Because of the way VMware, Cisco, and NetApp all work—independently and together—I can scale in any dimension. There really isn’t anything out there that I’ve seen to match it.
To learn more about DuPage Medical Group, read the NetApp customer case study, DuPage Medical Group Enhances Patient Care with 24/7 Availability Using NetApp Clustered Data ONTAP.