Case study: Royal Liverpool NHS Trust puts storage infrastructure in a private cloud

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital NHS Trust is migrating its systems to a private cloud to help cope with an explosion in data volumes.

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital NHS Trust is migrating its systems to a private cloud to help cope with an explosion in data volumes.

The hospital trust is moving to a private cloud based on EMC Symmetrix VMAX storage servers, in a project that will cut costs and significantly reduce the time it takes clinical staff to access patient data.

Core file servers supporting corporate systems and clinical systems used by medical staff have already been moved to the new infrastructure. The trust is now moving its Exchange server to the infrastructure and will move smaller niche systems over the next few months.

James Norman, director of information development and technology, says the trust experienced a 50% increase in data last year and expects a bigger increase this year. As a result, he says critical systems have been crashing and the need for regular upgrades of other systems has casued difficulties.

Data volumes are set to rise considerably as a result of the migration of over 200,000 paper-based patient records being scanned into a an electronic patient record system. Each patient record file can be between 200 and over 2000 sheets of paper, depending on medical histories of the patients concerned. Through a cloud the trust will create a single view of each patient despite information being held on 17 different systems.

As a result of the explosion of data last year and the expected growth next year, it was clear systems that were already struggling had to be replaced.

The hospital trust agreed a lease arrangement with EMC for the VMAX systems because it did not have the capital to buy them up front.

"This type of technology was previously out of our reach," said Norman.

The trust has built a new datacentre infrastructure to host the technology over two sites. Norman says the VMAX technology will have a life span of between five and 10 years compared to alternatives which he would expect to last between three and five years.

The Royal Liverpool has created a private cloud which provides the ability to scale capacity easily and gives the freedom to enable users to connect from anywhere. The cloud also enables a number of organisations connected to the trust, both nationally and internationally, to connect to information.

During the project, the trust first migrated its core file servers, with corporate data such as HR and payroll, to the EMC systems in the private cloud. Then it migrated the clinical systems which medical staff use when treating patients.

Before the upgrade clinical systems used by medical professionals were under particular pressure and have been prone to fail. "Over the last 12 months systems have crashed regularly but since the migration response times to requests have been instant," said Norman. He said the core corporate systems were problematic in that they required regular upgrades.

With the core file servers and clinical systems migrated the trust is in the next stage of the project. It is migrating its Microsoft Exchange servers following the completion of an upgrade from the 2003 version to 2010. The trust is also introducing virtual desktops so that medical staff can access patient records instantly from multiple PCs, without having to log in and out.

The necessity for change was the explosion of data volumes which the current systems were struggling to cope with, but the project has brought other benefits such as improved performance and better accessibility. But there are also significant cost savings.

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