A top healthcare system turns to IBM storage
Norsk helsenett SF updates its ICT provisions with IBM FlashSystem, gaining efficiency, sustainability and performance
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Today’s healthcare runs on information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure. Existing technologies such as electronic records are supporting new services—from telemedicine to self-service patient portals—and ICT needs to keep up.

For almost 20 years, Norsk helsenett SF (NHN) has been tasked with providing the robust and secure ICT infrastructure that supports electronic interaction between the many participants in the Norwegian health and care sector. NHN is also responsible for the operation of HelseCERT, the sector’s center for information security. Norway’s healthcare system is one of the finest in the world, and this infrastructure needs to be equal to the task.

In 2022, NHN decided it needed to replace its existing storage infrastructure. The organization had not experienced catastrophic failures, but after years of reliable service, challenges had arisen.

For example, its existing HPE 3PAR 20850/20840 storage was simply old.  Support and expansion costs were increasing. NHN’s ongoing responsibility for the national healthcare platform meant it needed to modernize and move to a new, more modern storage platform that could handle today’s needs and support future capabilities that haven’t been deployed yet.

Because critical national healthcare services run on these systems, NHN had high requirements for robustness, security and performance. For example, patient portals need continuous uptime so that patients can book appointments, get updates about prescriptions, see test results, and more. Healthcare is a 24x7x365 remit and NHN takes its responsibility very seriously.

~95% less rack space used ~79% less energy used
The goal is for the information to be available to health personnel and residents—when they need it. In short, we link Health Norway together. Endre Storeheier Nerland Infrastructure Manager Norsk helsenett SF
A new storage foundation for healthcare operations

Because of the stringent technical, performance and regulatory demands, the RFP for NHN’s new storage system had over 100 requirements, including:

  • All-flash and based on end-to-end NVMe
  • High availability (above 99.9999%)
  • Active-active High Availability Metro Cluster functionality
  • Data reduction without any performance penalties
  • Data encryption
  • Low latency
  • Migration from the HPE 3PAR solution

To meet these requirements, NHN installed one IBM FlashSystem® 9500 in four different data centers: two in Oslo and two in Trondheim.

An important reason NHN chose IBM is local competence. Local support engineers and architects combined with the best support placed IBM at the very top of the list and improved the migration process. For example, IBM® Expert Labs provided a written procedure for migrating data to the new storage and assisted with the early stages of application and data migration. However, in general NHN said the process was easy and went more quickly than expected due to speed of the new storage.

Now that the new solution is in place, NHN can use the unique features that the IBM FlashCore Module (FCM) offers, such as always-on encryption to help secure data and compression to be able to store more data on the same device. In addition, the IBM Safeguarded Copy feature will help ensure that the data is untouchable after a copy has been made.

With a robust and responsive storage solution in place, NHN is well positioned to support both current and future healthcare ICT needs. Extra capacity can easily be added if required, and with all licenses included from the start the solution is very expandable.

Performance and efficiency

After a hassle-free 4-week migration, NHN saw dramatic measurable improvements from the new IBM FlashSystem storage.

  • Required rack space was reduced from 336U to 16U.
  • Power consumption fell from 32 kW to 6.8 kW.
  • All data is securely stored in NHN data centers.
  • Power costs were reduced by approximately NOK 500,000 (USD 45,000) per year due to better energy efficiency.
  • Maintenance costs decreased by approximately NOK 2 million (USD 180,000) per year due to more responsive systems with less configuration needed.

In addition to markedly reducing its power consumption, NHN was able to get ahead of sustainability requirements by choosing IBM FlashSystem, which is 97% recyclable after end-of-life. There are currently no regulations for recycling of this kind of waste, but with IBM’s help NHN was able to set the standard for others to aspire to and make sure it was well-positioned to comply with any future requirements or expectations.

The bottom line is that NHN installed and migrated to a new storage foundation, providing an across-the-board improvement. With lower costs and a smaller data center footprint, NHN is nonetheless able to deliver better performance and greater redundancy for its critical ICT infrastructure.

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About Norsk helsenett SF (NHN)

NHN (link resides outside of ibm.com) was founded in 2004 to provide design and operations for mission-critical ICT solutions that support healthcare services in Norway. As such, it provides onsite management and operation of computer and data processing facilities on a contract or fee basis, developing and operating a secure, robust and appropriate national ICT infrastructure.

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Produced in the United States of America, December 2023

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