NHS trust opts for HP active-active no-SSD tier SAN deployment

Brighton NHS trust chooses HP private cloud instead of Dell servers and storage, and revamps IT and disaster recovery with active-active LeftHand SANs and no SSD tier

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH) has upgraded its storage and disaster recovery infrastructure as part of a 10-year £26m IT consolidation and electronic patient records (EPR) project.

The NHS trust chose HP over Dell, and has implemented HP private cloud infrastructure with LeftHand iSCSI SANs in active-active configuration to support the complete revamp of its IT systems. 

Despite planning for up to 400 virtual servers, the trust chose not to implement an SSD tier at present.

The trust has around 7,000 employees at two main hospital sites in Brighton and Haywards Heath, plus up to five smaller sites, and serves around 750,000 patients annually.

Until two years ago its systems comprised mostly physical servers running 1990s-vintage Windows NT4 and Exchange 5.5 with direct-attached storage and an EMC SAN. The bulk of its apps are 300 specialist in-house developed clinical applications.

Server and storage procurement

At the start of the project, IT director Iain Arbuthnot brought IT back in-house from the outsourcer and embarked on a procurement project for a new server and storage infrastructure that could meet the demands of the EPR project and provide adequate disaster recovery provision.

As things stood, data protection provision was scattered around the various systems, said Arbuthnot: “There was some resiliency, but it was piecemeal around specific applications.”

The project will ultimately see the creation of up to 400 Microsoft Hyper-V virtual servers running Alert EPR software, which will replace most of the existing clinical applications.

The physical infrastructure supporting this comprises HP c-Class and Proliant servers with two HP LeftHand P4500 iSCSI SAN nodes with 28TB of SAS drive capacity, each in an active-active replication configuration at the Brighton and Haywards Heath sites connected via a 10Gbps link.

An active-active storage setup requires synchronous replication between two sites, which sees data written to both SANs simultaneously.

There is no flash storage in the HP SANs, despite most IT departments now opting for an SSD tier to support the IOPS demands of virtual machines. 

HP Matrix and Hyper-V have made very complex stuff simple

Iain Arbuthnot, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust

Arbuthnot said there is no need for it at present. “It’s a matter of timing. If we bought our systems now, we would certainly include it, but a year ago it was very expensive. We don’t have any virtual desktops so there’s no real need for flash at present,” he said.

The HP server and storage products came as part of an HP CloudSystem bundle which includes the HP Matrix private cloud product. This is the successor to HP Insight and comprises server and storage management and provisioning functions.

Arbuthnot’s team chose HP over Dell/Compellent products, mostly on grounds of cost. “I’d been a fan of Dell in the past, but the main reason we didn’t opt for Dell on this project was price.”

Did Arbuthnot feel compelled to buy storage from the same supplier that supplied BSUH’s servers? “There was no reason not to, but that was a decision made at the time,” he said.

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Overall, the key benefit of HP products over the competition for Arbuthnot is simplicity of use. 

“I’m confident that if I was in the datacentre on my own I could make it work," he said. "I could count on HP Matrix and Hyper-V to do what I wanted them to do. They have made very complex stuff simple."

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