Kindred Healthcare slashes costs with a new three-tier SAN

Provider consolidated 180TB and slashed per-port costs by $200.

Figuring out an effective storage strategy is no easy matter when operating 60 hospitals, 225 nursing centers, 100 rehabilitation sites and 50 pharmacies. But in overhauling its storage architecture, Kindred Healthcare, a nationwide healthcare services provider, has accomplished just that.

As part of the overhaul, Tim Hesson, corporate manager for storage management at the Louisville, Ky., company, oversaw consolidation of more than 180TB of data into a single storage-area network (SAN). Having run out of ports, he consolidated the data flowing through 26 McData Fibre Channel switches into a new, more scalable SAN built using six Cisco MDS 9509 Multilayer Directors. In the process, Kindred reduced costs for internal customers by $200 per port and realized $160,000 in SAN switch port savings the first year, Hesson says. For this, Kindred earns recognition as a 2006 Enterprise All-Star.

Data on Kindred's 1-year-old SAN is staged in three EMC-based tiers, Hesson says. Data from financial, clinical and backup systems resides on Tier-1 storage - three of EMC's expensive Symmetrix DMX arrays. Tier-2 data, stored on seven Clariion midrange systems, consists of Microsoft Exchange, file services and some less-than-business-critical databases. Tier 3 data comprises medical images, stored on a Centera array.

"Images are written to the Clariion and to the Centera at the same time," Hesson says. "At some point, data on the Clariion rolls over - the first-in information is deleted by newer information."

Hesson insists that the bulk of Kindred's data be stored on the SAN. "Over the last four years, we have taken a really strong approach - any group with over 50GB of data has to really justify not putting the data on the SAN," he says. "That gives us better economies."

The SAN consolidation has had dramatic effects, he says. "We drastically reduced the number of interswitch links from 121 to 16," he says. "At the same time, we went from 1Gbps to 2Gbps Fibre Channel."

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.