Illinois Valley Community Hospital (IVCH) needed to significantly improve its disaster recovery capability, and wanted to do so in an environmentally friendly way. A creative, software-based approach helped the 72-bed hospital in north central Illinois protect its virtual environment in a way that minimizes the resource impact on the actual environment.
“We really needed to firm up our DR capabilities. We were backing up to tapes then sending them to an off-site facility, and later we tried disk-to-disk. Neither method would let us recover our systems quickly if anything ever happened,” said Illinois Valley Community Hospital Director of IT Nancy McDonnell. “At the same time, we had been trying hard for several years to make our IT environment greener.
We wanted to find a strategy that would support both goals.”
For options, the hospital consulted with Merrimac Solutions, a strategic IT services company that had provided several solutions for it in the past. Merrimac has specialists in disaster recovery, storage, virtualization, backup and recovery and business continuity solutions. It assessed Illinois Valley Community Hospital’s physical and virtual infrastructures, current backup and recovery operations and disaster recovery needs
“Illinois Valley Community Hospital is one of the most forward-thinking organizations we’ve worked with,” said Merrimac Solutions founder and technology architect John Quinn. “They have a very smart, strategic IT organization, so they can create great systems.”
Merrimac struck a balance between the hospital’s DR needs and its green IT goals by proposing a solution that used new software – vReplicator from Vizioncore – to give a second life to the hospital’s older servers.
Illinois Valley Community Hospital took the servers it was planning to replace, and instead of recycling or discarding them, reused them at an existing facility to create a disaster recovery site. Along with the older servers, Merrimac installed a Xiotech Emprise SAN and fibre switch for connectivity , plus vReplicator to replicate critical virtualized servers from the hospital to the DR site.
“The old servers that Illinois Valley Community Hospital was planning to replace anyway were still functional and were just perfect to reuse to create a DR site,” Quinn said.
vReplicator was also a perfect fit because it can replicate VMs on physical hosts to dissimilar hardware. That feature saved IVCH from having to equip its new DR site with the same new servers it was upgrading to at the hospital. vReplicator provided additional savings because it is licensed by the socket, not by the host or the number of VMs being replicated, which would have driven up the implementation cost considerably.
Illinois Valley Community Hospital used vReplicator to schedule its VMs to automatically replicate to the DR site. Different schedules were set for each VM, depending on their importance. Some VMs are replicated hourly, others every few days. vReplicator has several features that enable it to replicate very quickly, so Illinois Valley Community Hospital can easily replicate critical VMs as often as needed and transfer the files over the fibre switch to the DR site. The DR site is equipped with the hospital’s old servers plus a new, energy efficient Xiotech storage area network (SAN) featuring Xiotech’s Intelligent Storage Element (ISE) technology. The Emprise SAN technology includes five years of hardware warranty, plenty of performance, a simple management interface and ample storage for the DR site. Plus, the new storage was much more affordable than alternatives that were considered. The savings enabled Illinois Valley Community Hospital to upgrade and protect its systems even more by purchasing and implementing vReplicator.
vReplicator was created specifically to replicate virtual machines. It automatically captures an image of the VM and encapsulates it as a file and transfers it over the fibre to the Xiotech SAN. vReplicator’s Change Block Tracking (CBT) detects which data blocks have changed since the last replication pass, and only transfers changed blocks to the DR site. The patent-pending Active Block Mapping feature makes CBT work even more efficiently by detecting files deleted from the VM image and not including these blocks in the transfer. These features result in faster execution and smaller files, which in turn require less time and bandwidth to transfer.
“Now we can replicate servers to a disaster recovery facility in just minutes without having to power them off,” said Bret Collins, the senior network administrator at Illinois Valley Community Hospital, who also leads the organization’s green IT initiatives. “We’re saving at least 40 or 50 minutes every time we need to back them up. We haven’t had to restore systems from the DR site, but the difference will be like night and day. It’s going to make our jobs so much easier to recover a replicated file instead of having to rebuild and restore servers.”
Illinois Valley Community Hospital accomplished its goal of developing disaster recovery capabilities without significantly expanding its physical footprint. Leveraging its virtual environment enabled it to minimize the impact on the actual environment.
“We thought vReplicator could really help us improve our recovery time, and it has,” said McDonnell. “I appreciate that Merrimac Solutions really took the time to learn about our environment and our goals, and was very forward looking. They are helping us be more strategic in what we do.”
What Illinois Valley Community Hospital does is apply the principles of reduce, reuse & recycle to its IT environment. With vReplicator it has reduced the time and energy needed to protect its systems, and has reused its servers in the DR site.
“With virtualization, Illinois Valley Community Hospital was able to consolidate about 50 physical servers down to five,” Quinn said. “The organization really reduced its environmental footprint, and upgraded its systems at the same time.”
Implement disaster recovery capabilities in an environmentally friendly way.
VMware ESX used to virtualize primarily Windows systems. Fiber optic cabling installed to link primary facility to disaster recovery site, which includes a Xiotech SAN.
Replicate to reduce, reuse and recycle. Disaster recovery capability was gained by replicating systems to the DR site using Vizioncore’s vReplicator. The DR site was equipped by reusing servers from the production site that were due for replacement. The new solution reduces recovery times, reuses hardware and replaces tape backup.
The Merrimac Advantage:
“Now we can replicate servers to a disaster recovery facility in just minutes without having to power them off. We’re saving at least 40 or 50 minutes every time we need to back them up.”