AIX > Case Studies > Healthcare

Speedy Recovery


Most businesses, whether operating in mixed or homogeneous environments, have redundancies built into their IT environments that allow for the replication of data--often on the fly. Although this data-retention and -access foresight may enable them to recover from an unplanned disaster, it's the level and speed of recovery that often makes the difference between a business that has to shut down for the day or one that's up and running again in a matter of an hour or so. 

Given the critical nature of healthcare business and the need for near instant access to the most up-to-date patient information, AnMed Health took a serious look at its data storage and business continuity requirements. With the help of IBM, AnMed designed an innovative yet affordable solution to be able to respond quickly and reliably to planned and unplanned downtime.

A Host of Applications

A well-respected healthcare-delivery provider based in Anderson, S.C., AnMed offers a comprehensive suite of general and specialized diagnostic and treatment services. In addition to its Anderson Area Medical Center, which is a 533-bed general/acute hospital, it has more than 30 patient-care sites, including a 40-bed rehabilitation hospital, a 27-bed chemical-dependency hospital, and an outpatient, diagnostic, surgical and rehabilitation care center. It also offers primary-care services through a series of community healthcare centers and outreach programs.

Because of its size, AnMed needs a very robust IT environment. For example, it has an IBM* iSeries* 820 that runs its admitting and billing applications and its operating-room and accounts-payable and -receivable software, and an iSeries 270 that runs its payroll software. It also has "20 to 25" IBM RS/6000* and eServer pSeries* systems, according to Marty Stewart, disaster recovery manager with AnMed, that run a host of clinical applications from McKesson Corp.

Before moving its data-recovery needs in-house, AnMed outsourced much of it, working with a third-party hot site to help it recover from system failures. As you might expect, this was an expensive venture, costing $10,000 a month in 1998, when the organization had only five or six systems. Now that it has many more systems than that, the cost would be much higher, "probably closer to $60,000 or $70,000 a month," Stewart estimates.

But cost was only one factor that encouraged AnMed to look for an internal solution to replace its relationship with the third-party disaster-recovery site. More critically, it was taking 24 to 30 hours to restore downed systems. "Our AS/400* alone, which was running pharmacy, payroll, admitting and billing applications, took 26 hours to restore. We simply can't be down for that long," Stewart notes.

An additional issue had to do with keeping up with the latest in both server and application technology. "From a hardware perspective, everything is changing--and quickly," says Tommy Sluder, AnMed manager of technical support. "There's a wide variety of AIX* technology-based servers on the market, and we have a good many of them here, from a B80 all the way up to a pSeries 650, and now we're looking at the eServer p5 system. So when an application vendor recommends a hardware upgrade to run their software, we'd have to go back to the hot site and update our configuration and contract with them."

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.


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