REVIEWER: Mark Moroses, senior director of network services for Maimonides Medical Center.

BACKGROUND: Maimonides Medical Center is the third-largest independent teaching hospital in the U.S. and has more than 800 physicians tapping its information systems. The Brooklyn-based hospital needs to keep patient records, prescription data, medical supply ordering and fulfillment, research data, clinical imaging databases and more at the doctors' fingertips at all times of the day and night. For Maimonides, data availability really is a life or death issue.

PLATFORMS: DataCore's SANsymphony open storage networking software manages the hospital's storage area network (SAN) that consolidates IBM SSA storage resources from more than 17 servers running on Windows 2000 and Novell platforms. We anticipate significant storage growth within the next year as we incorporate less mission-critical applications and scale our second off-site disaster recovery SAN.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With DataCore's storage networking software, our storage area networks meet two key goals: availability and scalability. The software's fully redundant architecture eliminates downtime caused by hardware failure or scheduled system maintenance, while its drag-and- drop GUI allocation and advanced management features allow storage changes to occur without downtime or re-booting. The project has been so successful that we have ambitious plans to extend the reach of our SANs to incorporate our legacy systems, expand our off-site disaster recovery architecture and scale with additional capacity as the hospital maintains all patient records for 21 years as required by law.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The storage solution built around DataCore's SANsymphony was the only one that could abstract storage resources and deliver reliable, secure data access, layering advanced features such as caching and fault-tolerant disk recovery on top of the virtualized pool of storage ­ and was well within our budget. It maximizes our utilization of storage by making it easy and nondisruptive to allocate storage where it is needed. Even if hardware fails, SANsymphony's N+1 redundant architecture continues to deliver high-performance data access. In addition, the flexibility of the storage software enables us to take a "tiered storage" approach, using less expensive disks for non-mission- critical testing and our contingency disaster recovery SAN ­ and control the cost of future capacity expansion.

STRENGTHS: SANsymphony's open architecture pools different vendors' storage devices to allow capacity to be easily allocated wherever it's needed in the SAN. We're already seeing a positive ROI from the solution. We are getting the most utility out of existing hardware and are able to scale to meet our growing capacity needs with hardware from any vendor. We've also achieved operational and economic benefits from eliminating storage- related application downtime and helping IT staff to be more effective and productive.

WEAKNESSES: We'd like to implement more proactive diagnostic alarms to alert IT staff of potential drive failures and performance degradation. The software writes these alarms to event logs; however, additional work is needed to automate immediate physical notification to administrators.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We examined and compared three solutions; SANsymphony was the clear first choice based on the solution's redundancy, scalability, economy and ease of use. We tested the software extensively before implementing it into production. We were impressed us with its stability, performance and reliability ­ delivering as promised, even when put to the test with a hardware failure.

DELIVERABLES: SANsymphony allows us to seamlessly and proactively maintain our critical applications with 24x7 data access. As we continue to grow, we'll be able to scale cost-effectively with a solid infrastructure that will continue to support our data storage expansion for years. We'll be able to roll the savings this project has delivered to finance other IT projects. One successful project, like our SAN, paves the way for subsequent "green lights" and maintains the trust hospital administration has in its IT department.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We've had a very positive experience with DataCore. Training was comprehensive and informative, and customer support has been very responsive. They were available at all hours and worked closely with us to identify the root of an implementation issue we encountered that was beyond the realm of the SANsymphony solution.

DOCUMENTATION: SANsymphony's reference material is thorough, informative, well-written and organized. However, the software is so intuitive, we rarely need to reference the product documentation.

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