Leveraging SAN for healthcare growth at Metropolis

This is the story of how Metropolis Healthcare dealt with unprecedented business growth using a scalable storage area network (SAN) solution.

From routine pathology testing services to HIV drug resistance testing, Indian medical diagnostic center player Metropolis Healthcare Ltd. has everything to offer patients. Since 1981, the company has made giant strides in the diagnostics industry. Today, Metropolis has labs in five international locations. Metropolis also has one of the first SAP deployments in India to its credit.

Two years ago, Metropolis decided to go in for a state-of-the-art data center in Mumbai. Mohar Tiwari, the vice president for IT and SAP at Metropolis says, "We went in for an enterprise-wide SAP and laboratory information management system (LIMS) that took care of all our needs. Once this came into place, it became necessary to have a data center for these solutions." Metropolis needed a scalable solution to host development and production. As a result, Metropolis decided to have an in-house data center, since it had plenty of users on LAN. The data center is connected to other offices with a 48 Mbps leased line.

In 2007, Dell was difficult to contact and interact with, whereas IBM could not provide us with a proper price breakup.
Mohar Tiwari
vice president for IT and SAPMetropolis Healthcare Ltd.

Storage requirements arose at this point, as Metropolis was dependent on a NAS solution for its storage. The large amounts of data growth from various systems such as SAP and LIMS made it imperative for Metropolis to opt for a storage area network (SAN).

Although Metropolis depended on HP architecture at the time of SAN evaluation, the company wanted to keep its options open. As a result, IBM and Dell were also in the reckoning. According to Tiwari, "Dell was difficult to contact and interact with. In 2007, Dell did not have proper representation in India since it had a direct to customer model."

IBM's solutions were evaluated next, which presented its fair set of issues. "IBM could not provide us with a price break-up of each component of the SAN solution," says Tiwari. Metropolis noticed a substantial price difference between HP and IBM products. HP was selling its SAN solution (the boxes and the solution, for a little over Rs 1 crore. HP's global partnership with SAP also proved to be another beneficial factor, as a result of which Metropolis opted for HP's SAN solution.

From ideation to implementation, Metropolis took around four months for the SAN rollout. Metropolis deployed its SAN in November 2007 with the help of an HP implementation partner. The company uses Oracle as its backend database. Twelve Windows servers are connected to the FC-based SAN, which uses a RAID 5 configuration.

Mistakes undone and future plans

Although Metropolis did not face too many implementation challenges, Metropolis would not mind changing certain things. "If we had to do it all over again, we would go in for UNIX servers rather than Windows. However, at that point of time, there was a huge price difference between Itanium and Windows servers."

Metropolis plans to consider UNIX during its next ERP upgrade. This upgrade is slated for August 2010.

Tiwari does not feel the need to opt for storage virtualization at the moment. "Storage virtualization does not offer enough value for money for our kind of business. It is more ideal for businesses which face seasonal ups and downs when it comes to storage requirements," says Tiwari.

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