Storage and Networking Upgrade Cures Hospital Ills

A 276-bed community hospital in Wheeling, W. Va., transformed its performance capabilities during daily peak times following an upgrade of its IT infrastructure, including its storage area network (SAN).

The busiest hours at Wheeling Hospital, which serves parts of Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, are often 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. Many important in-house tasks occur then, including new registrations being entered as people check into the hospital, as well as distribution of medications to those who already have a bed.

Previously, overnight database backups coincided with these early-morning demands, which caused a drain on its IT systems and slow-downs that caused employee frustrations.

“That definitely was a huge issue,” says Brent Estep, senior systems engineer at Wheeling. “Our backups were running into the morning and affecting end performance.”

The IT team saw an opportunity to improve its overall performance and back-up times, given the five-year warranty expirations that were about to occur on many of its existing components. Although the IT team at the hospital initially considered continuing with its then-provider, it began investigating other types of enterprise solutions and was interested in ones that could provide higher-end components at a lower price.

The hospital staff was became particularly intrigued by Dell’s Compellent solution, which included both write-intensive and read-intensive flash drives and spinning-desk capabilities. That helped make the decision to migrate to Dell storage, services and networking solutions in 2014.

“We wanted to give our end-users the performance they required,” says Sean Loy, director of clinical informatics at the hospital. “We went into production in late March of last year. Everything has been live for more than six months now.”

That migration included deployment of two Dell Compellent SC8000 flash optimized arrays with 60 terabytes of storage each. Wheeling Hospital also deployed 10 PowerEdge R720 rack servers and two PowerEdge R910s for its database platform.

Upgrading to four Dell Networking 8132 switches, from previous 1-Gigabit switches, provided the hospital with 10-Gigabit Ethernet capabilities and an improved networking environment. Dell Deployment Services helped the hospital to achieve its upgrades while working to meet a tight deadline.

As a result of the upgrade, the hospital has seen a decrease in its previous overnight backups, which took up to 10 hours, by half. There’s also been a 40 percent increase in data performance.

“We’ve been able to reach a point where there are no bottlenecks now in system performance,” Loy reports. “We had issues before in those peak periods. We were seeing slow-downs.”

The performance increase also led to improvements in IT management capabilities. Previously, the hospital’s small data center administration team—consisting of a systems engineer, systems administrator and several other tech professionals—spent significant time managing and allocating system resources. Now, because the new IT infrastructure requires minimal oversight, the team is freed up to pursue other projects, including deploying innovative health care technologies.

“We don’t have to sit there and babysit it,” Loy points out. “The performance is excellent, and the cost is phenomenal.”

With the adoption of the Dell solution, Wheeling also had the capability to upgrade to the latest version of its clinical information systems, another end-user benefit. Finally, the hospital estimates that it saved a third of the budget that it would have spent had it chosen a competitive provider.

The data center admin staff now turns to Dell Compellent Copilot support to provide them with access to a Dell storage engineer around the clock.

“Their tech support is great from both an enterprise and personal standpoint,” Estep said. “The fact that you can call a number and talk to a knowledgeable engineer on the Dell side has been a really big selling point for us.”