CATEGORY: Storage/Hardware

REVIEWER: Matt Dewey, director of IS, department of radiology at the University of Utah.

BACKGROUND: To provide easy access to radiology images, the University of Utah decided to work with Marconi Medical Systems to implement a full-scale picture archival communication system (PACS) in the late 1990s. By converting traditional x-ray and radiology film to digital images, the university was able to put their patients' medical images onto a network accessible from numerous sites at the University of Utah and its affiliated clinics.

PLATFORMS: The IS center runs on a Solaris platform with a Sun 5000 server, a StorageTek Timber Wolf 9710 588 slot DLT tape library and two terabytes of hard disk cache.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With thousands of medical images to manage, the university needed an advanced data storage system. Working with Marconi and StorageTek, the university installed a DLT tape library and two terabytes of hard disk cache. This substantial archive, called the Marconi IntelliStore, was set to store up to 22 terabytes of data. Initially, a basic hierarchical storage management (HSM) software program was used to manage the system. Prior to the completion of the Marconi PACS network, we realized that a bottleneck of inefficiency was being caused by the old data management software. The software was adequate for most functions, but slow and cumbersome while working with advanced HSM features. With the growing demands on the network, we needed a data storage solution that could efficiently manage multiple terabytes of data in an HSM environment. Recognizing this problem up front, Marconi installed an advanced data storage management program from LSC Incorporated, a Minnesota-based data storage software company. Called SAM-FS, the program allowed the IS department to efficiently store huge volumes of data while automatically migrating the important radiology files through the HSM system and into a safe DLT tape archive.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: To our knowledge, SAM-FS is the only software solution that can manage large portions of data in this type of environment. With an immense data pool containing multiple terabytes of medical images, our old software would simply bottleneck. SAM-FS, on the other hand, intelligently moves the data between our online disk cache and the DLT tape archive library. All of these functions are done transparently, guided from preset parameters and independent of administrative commands.

STRENGTHS: The stability of SAM-FS is one of its main strengths. We are working with precious medical data and cannot allow for any network downtime. If there are problems with SAM-FS, they are always easily addressed. Also, SAM-FS's internal diagnostic tools allow us to take a virtual snapshot of the program which can then be analyzed to determine any problems.

WEAKNESSES: With the release of a new version of SAM-FS, we sometimes find functions that need to be tweaked to meet the unique requirements of our enterprise. In an environment as demanding as our PACS network, it is not always possible for the engineers to test every scenario in the beta stage of software development. LSC understands our position and is always quick to work through these problems with us.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected SAM-FS simply because it was the only software that could handle a data pool as large and complex as our PACS archive. Additionally, it works with multiple versions of Solaris and is very easy to administer. File transfers, upgrades and HSM features are all very efficient and easy to learn.

DELIVERABLES: SAM-FS can output many types of status reports. One of the more unique features is the snapshot tool in the internal diagnostics program. This feature allows us to analyze SAM-FS by providing a static copy or snapshot of the program at the moment that a problem is noticed.

VENDOR SUPPORT: LSC, Marconi and StorageTek have all provided great vendor support. These companies realize that our data is crucial to the well-being of the university's patients and have exceeded our expectations in support.

DOCUMENTATION: LSC's manuals are easy to understand and apply. They are well written, well documented and updated with every new version of SAM-FS. We have worked through many situations by relying on these manuals.

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