Business Challenge story
NMMC operates a complex, constantly growing storage landscape, but lacked an effective way to manage it—putting strain on a busy IT team and making it tough for the organization to contain costs.
NMMC took control of its storage environment with IBM Storage Insights; today it uses the cloud-based software to manage over 1.2 PB of data, spread across dozens of systems.
$400,000 savedby moving one set of data to a more cost-effective storage tier
2 hours a weekfreed up for IT manager to focus on more strategic work
Supportsstrategic shift to a data-driven, proactive approach to capacity planning
Business Challenge story
Taking back control over storage sprawl
NMMC is one of the largest rural healthcare centers in the US, treating tens of thousands of patients every year. Like many healthcare providers, NMMC faces a twofold challenge—its data volumes are growing all the time but intense cost pressures result in its storage budget getting smaller, forcing the IT team to be more effective with fewer resources.
For many years, NMMC has counted on IBM storage technology to help meet these objectives. The organization currently stores approximately 1.2 PB of data on an array of IBM solutions, including nine IBM XIV® systems and several IBM FlashSystem® devices; the latter used to house mission-critical electronic medical record (EMR) data.
“It’s vital for us to understand how much data we are storing on each of these systems, and the rate at which we are consuming available capacity, so that we can keep up with the business’ storage needs,” explains Rusty Sparks, Manager of the Systems Administration Group at NMMC. “Without a clear understanding of existing capacity and future needs, we could find ourselves in a situation where we don’t have enough space to store all our data, which could leave teams unable to access critical information and hamper their ability to provide effective care to patients.”
Until recently, storage management was a time-consuming manual activity for the IT team at NMMC, as Sparks explains: “We had to log into each system separately to check how much storage space had been consumed and how much free capacity remained. We would then record the details in a spreadsheet. Due to the sheer size of our storage landscape, gaining this overview took a huge amount of time and effort.
“The result was that our capacity planning and forecasting was based more on guesswork than fact, which did not put us in a strong position when it came to submitting capital requests for new storage. It also meant that we were mostly reactionary when it came to adding capacity, and often had to scramble to spin up new storage systems as existing platforms reached their limits.”
Comprehensive, cloud-based storage management
NMMC shared its struggles with IBM, which recommended IBM Storage Insights, an intelligent storage management solution delivered as a service from the IBM Cloud. Working with longtime service provider and IBM Platinum Business Partner Mainline, NMMC launched a 60-day trial of the new solution.
Sparks recalls: “It was extremely easy to set up Storage Insights. With help from Mainline, we got the solution up and running in about two hours. As an IT manager, I have very limited time in my day for things like configuration, and I was really impressed by the speed and ease of deployment with Storage Insights.”
Storage Insights is fully managed by IBM, freeing NMMC from the upfront cost and complexity of deploying and maintaining an on-premises solution.
“We love that Storage Insights is a cloud-based solution,” notes Sparks. “Anytime we can deploy a new IT platform and not have to stand up or manage hardware is a big advantage.”
Once its trial period had ended, NMMC quickly made Storage Insights a permanent fixture in its IT landscape. Today, the solution provides unprecedented insight into the organization’s entire IBM storage environment.
Sparks says: “Storage Insights makes it incredibly easy for us to monitor our storage consumption, offering instant visibility into our entire storage environment, all from a single screen. We have a better understanding of exactly how much capacity we have on which systems. Similarly, we have built up a very clear picture of how data is distributed across different storage systems.
“For example, we have large applications where some data resides on FlashSystem storage and the rest is held on XIV systems. We can use the application level view in Storage Insights to see at a glance where all the data from a specific application resides. Storage Insights gives us the ability to obtain fine-grained insight alongside a high-level overview of our overall storage landscape – and that’s incredibly powerful.”
In addition, Storage Insights offers powerful analysis and reporting capabilities, enabling NMMC to clearly see how existing storage is being utilized and to project future capacity requirements.
“We find Storage Insights to be a very useful projection and reporting tool,” remarks Sparks. “Based on past consumption trends, we can forecast what our likely storage capacity needs will be over the next six to 18 months. We also use Storage Insights to generate current capacity and forecasted growth reports that help validate our spending requests to senior management.”
A data-driven solution, Storage Insights learns by analyzing storage system and server data usage, including a vast amount of historical telemetry data from across the worldwide IBM customer base. As it gathers data, the solution becomes smarter—helping NMMC identify performance hotspots, as well as unused and under-used volumes.
Storage Insights also offers new smart support capabilities, making use of artificial intelligence to identify and resolve performance issues faster, and introducing automation that significantly streamlines the user experience.
Sparks states: “It was a pleasant surprise to discover the deep analytical insights the solution provides. For example, through Storage Insights we noticed unusual data growth on one of our XIV systems; we used analytics to dig down to the root cause of that anomaly and arrest the problematic growth. In the past, it probably would have been impossible for us to spot such an issue on our own.”
Driving smarter decisions and impressive cost savings
Storage Insights is helping NMMC to drive a more strategic approach to storage management, especially when it comes to defining storage tiers.
Sparks gives an example: “In the past, when adding a new application to our landscape, we would look at its performance specifications and make an educated guess about which storage tier to allocate the application data. Today, we plug those same performance specifications into Storage Insights, which determines which type of storage offers the best fit. It takes the guesswork out of the process, enabling us to place data on the optimal storage tier for its needs.”
He continues: “The ability to more clearly define storage tiers with Storage Insights is helping us strike a much finer price-performance balance when it comes to data allocation. For example, next year, to accommodate data growth, we will be purchasing a new IBM FlashSystem V9000, and initially planned to house EMR databases and some VMware data on this platform. However, Storage Insights highlighted that we could safely allocate the VMware data to spinning disk systems, and attach those to the V9000 system.
“As a result, we’ll be able to put some 150 TB of data on lower-tier storage instead of the more expensive all-flash resources—saving us close to USD400,000. That’s huge cost avoidance, that we might never have discovered without Storage Insights.”
In addition, enhanced forecasting and reporting capabilities enable the IT team to provide highly nuanced and reliable data to executives, and support smarter budgeting.
“I’ve never had a tool that allows me to report back to senior management on storage as well as Storage Insights does,” says Sparks. “We find the reports to be a real asset when it comes to submitting capital requests. Instead of simply going to our CIO and CTO with a likely estimate of our storage needs for the year ahead, we can strengthen our budget submissions with forecasting data from Storage Insights. We’re constantly being asked to do more with less in IT, and storage faces extra scrutiny because it takes up such a big chunk of our budget. So, the ability to back up our spending with cold, hard data is a big plus.”
Importantly, smarter enterprise storage management has significantly reduced manual workload for the IT team at NMMC. Sparks confirms: “Storage management is now a straightforward task for me and my team. I estimate that Storage Insights is giving me back at least two hours every week, which I used to spend manually managing storage.”
He concludes: “I’ve been working with IBM technology for over two decades and believe that Storage Insights is one of the best pieces of software that IBM has ever developed. For the first time, I’m able to see exactly where our data resides, how much storage we are using and the rate at which we’re consuming it. I can then use that information to make finely-tuned decisions and projections around storage management. Having that level of insight and control is absolutely priceless.”
About North Mississippi Medical Center
North Mississippi Medical Center (NMMC) offers acute diagnostic and therapeutic services through a network of five remote hospitals and approximately 90 remote clinics. Headquartered in Tupelo, Mississippi, NMMC is the largest rural hospital center in the United States.
Take the Next Step
To learn more about IBM Storage Insights and/or sign up for a free trial, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/marketplace/analytics-driven-data-management