Ahead Deploys EMC VPLEX for High Availability at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Protecting Data at Four Hospitals

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 General News
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Innovative Use of VPLEX Metro Eliminates Outages for Virtual Storage

LAS VEGAS, May 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Data center specialist Ahead announced today that it has successfully deployed

EMC® VPLEX® technology – originally designed to pool and share virtualized storage within or between data centers – to deliver high availability within a single data center for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), a national network of regional destination hospitals specializing in complex and advance-stage cancer care.

CTCA is leveraging a VPLEX Metro cluster to achieve single-site data replication between two virtualized EMC storage arrays located at the CTCA production data center in Wisconsin as a means of providing continuous operation and high availability of storage systems. The strategy provides protection against the failure of one array that would disrupt operations at all four CTCA hospitals as well as a fifth facility scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.

If one array loses connectivity to the SAN or otherwise becomes unavailable, VPLEX will non-disruptively continue to serve I/O to the host from the remaining array as well as log data until the array is restored and data can be resynchronized. This ensures that no component failure will cause an interruption to host I/O or application access.

The VPLEX project is part of a new CTCA data center infrastructure designed, engineered and implemented by Ahead, including Cisco Nexus, OTV Layer 2 multi-site network implementation and a 100% virtualized infrastructure with VMware vSphere 4.1.

"We are committed to high-quality patient care and safety. We have redundancy built into our storage systems, but saw an opportunity to improve with VPLEX," said Chad A. Eckes, CIO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America. "VPLEX provides continuous uptime with no interruption to host I/O in the event of an array failure.  Recovery time is no longer an issue because an array failure will not cause an outage."

Disaster Avoidance

VPLEX Metro was designed to build active/active data center solutions for synchronous-distance data centers for cluster-aware applications. That scenario was not suitable for the CTCA implementation because CTCA wanted to build a high availability solution within its primary data center in Wisconsin to ensure continuous local data availability during a failure event without the requirement to fail over to the DR data center for off-site protection. In addition, the hospital system's disaster recovery data center was outside the distance limitations for synchronous data access.

The use of VPLEX Local was initially considered as an alternative because that solution is designed to provide distributed storage virtualization within a single site, but a single VPLEX Local cluster would leave no path to the virtualized mirrored storage for the failover desired by CTCA. Instead, the solution engineered by Ahead places a VPLEX Metro cluster configuration in front of CTCA's EMC VMAX and Celerra NS-960 storage arrays to make it possible to actively migrate workload between arrays with zero downtime for end users in the event of a connectivity loss or other failure.

"For most organizations, the active/active architecture supported by VPLEX Metro involves presenting virtual storage between distributed data centers. CTCA's desire for active/active capabilities within a single data center for high availability purposes presented a different challenge but one that could also be solved with a VPLEX Metro solution," said Eric Kaplan, VP of Engineering at Ahead.

"In this deployment, redundancy is not only built into the storage layer but also into the storage virtualization layer," Kaplan noted. "With the ability to actively serve data from both arrays, the issue is no longer disaster recovery but disaster avoidance. This marks a significant change in IT architecture and business continuity planning."

A technical paper on the implementation can be found at http://www.thinkaheadit.com/resources/whitepapers/

About Ahead

Ahead is a Chicago-based IT consultancy specializing in designing, engineering and deploying next-generation data centers that combine virtualization, storage and cloud technologies to help businesses reduce costs while also becoming more nimble and scalable. As one of the fastest-growing solution providers focused on the data center, Ahead has developed innovative methodologies and invested in a multi-million dollar lab for testing, demonstrating and delivering integrated solutions from EMC, VMware, and Cisco to drive private cloud enablement for its clients. In 2010 the company was named EMC's Backup and Recovery Partner of the Year, received an EMC "Journey to the Private Cloud" award, and became a Premier partner in the VMware Partner Network. For more information, visit www.ThinkAheadIT.com.



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