Shropshire hospitals dump NetApp for Dell EqualLogic iSCSI SAN

Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust retires ageing NetApp and replaces Fibre Channel-connected filers with Dell EqualLogic iSCSI SANs with flash, SAS and SATA tiers

Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust has replaced ageing NetApp filers and a Fibre Channel infrastructure with Dell EqualLogic iSCSI arrays connected via Ethernet and saved £300,000 in maintenance fees.

The trust comprises two acute hospitals at Shrewsbury and Telford, a 300-person corporate site plus numerous community facilities. There are 5,000 staff with 3,200 PCs, laptops and tablets.

The organisation runs mainly Dell PowerEdge servers with 50 physical devices and 99 virtual machines. There is a 1Gbps dedicated link between the two main hospitals that is used for replication for data protection between the sites.

The trust had supported computing operations with NetApp filers on a Fibre Channel network but these had reached end of life, said IT support manager Giles Madin.

“They were just about at capacity with about 50TB and only a rip-and-replace upgrade was possible with NetApp, and that would have cost half a million pounds. The lack of capacity was becoming a risk to replication between sites,” he said.

“The NetApp kit was good in terms of performance but was costing £60,000 a year in support fees,” he added.

Madin’s team evaluated replacement storage from three array makers but HP and NetApp lost out to Dell on grounds of cost.

This resulted in deployment of 850TB of capacity across the two main sites comprising mirrored pairs of Dell EqualLogic PS6510E with SATA drives for bulk storage, PS6110XS with MLC flash plus 10,000 rpm SAS for high performance work, and PS6100E with nearline SAS drives.

Capacity is vastly increased from the 50TB on the NetApp filers to 850TB, about half of which will be taken up by an Exchange migration.

Madin said the EqualLogic iSCSI arrays were easy to deploy and removed the need for management in the more complex Fibre Channel environment.

He said, “It was easy to deploy, competitive in terms of cost, scaled easily and means we can replicate data so we are in a safe position. We also get support as part of the deal so we’re not paying the £300,000 over five years we would have with NetApp.”

What could Dell improve on the EqualLogic arrays for Madin? “If I’m honest there are features we’re just not using to the full,” he said, “such as [reporting and analysis tool] SAN HQ. And our firmware upgrades are a little behind, but that may be down to our lack of time.”

“Also, if the price came down we’d probably invest in more flash SSD,” added Madin.


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