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Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust embraces new IBM FlashSystem technologies from Covenco

The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is a regional health organisation comprising four hospital sites and a neuro-rehabilitation unit in England. Having recently become part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, the organisation employs around 20,000 staff providing a range of community and hospital services to over one million people across Bury, Oldham, Rochdale and Salford, as well as providing more specialist care to patients across Greater Manchester and beyond.

The Trust’s mission statement is to provide the best care possible to each patient on every occasion and empower its staff to deliver on this promise. The IT team ensures that the systems they rely on for everything from diagnostic information to prescribing drugs run smoothly.

However, with the storage infrastructure underpinning these systems already at capacity and fast-approaching end of life, the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust was under pressure to find an alternative storage platform fast. Moreover, the Trust sought a low-risk migration path to prevent unscheduled downtime.

In a healthcare setting, every second counts. Clinicians depend on reliable access to essential healthcare systems when providing care. Any interruptions or delays could be a matter of life or death. For the IT teams behind the scenes, avoiding unplanned downtime is one of their highest priorities.

The Trust’s legacy storage lacked performance, meaning read and write latencies were unacceptably high. With around 10,000 staff working at any given time, speeding up those transactional databases amounts to a significant productivity gain, with clinicians being able to divert any time saved to patient care.

To overcome this, the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust selected IBM® FlashSystem® 5000 to support critical clinical systems and engaged IBM Business Partner, Covenco, to help plan the migration.

With help from Covenco, the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust deployed three IBM FlashSystem 5000 arrays, with two in an IBM HyperSwap® configuration to enable dual-site, active-active access to critical data. Using IBM Spectrum® Virtualize software, integrated into IBM FlashSystem storage, Covenco created copies of the organisation’s SQL environment to facilitate a low-risk migration with minimal downtime.

Management of the legacy storage was complex and inefficient, taking up around 90 minutes every day. In the past, the IT team spent time checking that snapshots were clearing, restarting failed dedupes and so on. The team now receives proactive alerts if anything needs attention, saving time and providing confidence that everything is running smoothly.

Previously, failing over their systems to secondary storage was a complex process that the IT team didn’t fully trust. However, with IBM HyperSwap, this has become seamless. With help from Covenco, the Trust now has a sophisticated storage platform that makes the most of the powerful capabilities IBM storage arrays offer.

Since upgrading to IBM FlashSystem storage, the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has seen a dramatic improvement in patient experience through a significant increase in performance and reliability for critical clinical systems. Having previously dealt with legacy storage that could not facilitate the demand from their clinical applications, introducing this technology has dramatically reduced the number of complaints about slow-running or unavailable systems whilst increasing productivity.         

The Trust’s IT team can also work more efficiently now that the IBM Storage technology is in place. And, with its new high-availability storage configuration, the Trust’s IT systems have increased in resilience, with the non-stop access to clinical systems enabling the organisation to better fulfil its mission of delivering exceptional healthcare services 24/7.

The Trust is now also working with Covenco to deploy IBM FlashSystem 7200 arrays. It also plans to use the IBM Safeguarded Copy feature to further improve its data resilience.

With Safeguarded Copy, the organisation can create logically air-gapped copies of its production SQL data and take scheduled, immutable, point-in-time copies of the organisation’s data, which will be protected by policy.

Jav Yaqub, Head of Infrastructure at the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, says, “Covenco took full advantage of the power of IBM technology to make our move to the new infrastructure as non-disruptive as possible. They set up the new storage platform to run in parallel with our legacy environment, so we could test that it worked properly and had the option to roll back at any time. Planned downtime was limited to just five hours per cluster, which was a fantastic result, and we cut over exactly as planned.”

Yaqub concludes, “By teaming up with Covenco to deploy IBM FlashSystem 7200 arrays and use the Safeguarded Copy function to protect vital data from virus and ransomware attacks, we will realise even more value for the populations we serve.”