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Case Study: iTera Continuous Availability for Healthcare

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When has an IT professional ever been in trouble for doing a successful tape backup? Never. The problem stems from the downtime caused by the execution of these daily saves as well as other day-end processes. And for busy hospitals like the University Medical Center (UMC) in Las Vegas, Nevada, downtime means headaches for numerous departments, which is why iTera was contacted to implement products and provide consulting services to reduce their downtime burden.

The Whole Issue is Uptime

"The whole issue is uptime," says Ernie McKinley, director of UMC Information Services. "Our Radiology group had to enter patient information manually during their third shift because that's the time we do our saves. Even though total downtime was typically 30 minutes, Radiology experienced one hour of manually entering patient information for every five minutes that Admissions was offline. That's six hours!" And it wasn't just Radiology complaining; other clinical departments were suffering as well.

UMC uses Siemens Medical Solutions' MedSeries4 software to run many of the hospital's back-office and medical record-keeping transactions. For nightly processing, users were offline for approximately 30 minutes, usually between midnight and 1:30 a.m. Some of the processes causing downtime were daily backups, census data increment, auto discharge/re-admit, order communication (OC) charge generation, medical records interfacing, and more.

"We have an extremely busy emergency room," McKinley says. "There's a direct correlation between the length of time a system is down and the difficulties with processing admissions, discharges, and transfers."

iTera consultants analyzed how UMC was using its systems, and based on iTera's recommendations, made minor changes to some standard objects within its MedSeries4 environment. "One suggestion was simply to make a sequential copy on a particular file that was being locked by users," says iTera's Vice President Kent McDonald. "With this recommendation alone, we immediately shaved eight minutes off of UMC's downtime."

Hitting the Two Minute Mark

Within typical MedSeries4 environments, there's necessary downtime for the end-of-day processes, scheduled maintenance, monthly reorganization of files, and monthly saves of the system. Because of this, most MedSeries4 shops are hard-pressed to achieve much better than 90% uptime, but by implementing iTera's solutions as well as some recommended process modifications from iTera consultants, a 99.9% uptime is achievable.

The goal of iTera's technical team was to create a complete solution to reduce UMC's end-of-day downtime to less than five minutes. In fact, iTera was so successful that UMC's downtime was reduced to under two minutes (a month-long record). To get to the two-minute mark, UMC used iTera's Echo2 High Availability solution to eliminate the save-while-active checkpoint requirements—and the resulting downtime—normally required during the save process. In addition, recommendations by iTera consultants resolved the downtime-causing issues related to the other nightly processes. With minimal impact and expense, Echo2 High Availability eliminated or significantly reduced the downtime caused by monthly system saves, IBM OS upgrades, hardware upgrades, and IBM system migrations, while iTera's Reorganize While Active product eliminated downtime from file reorganizations.

Since UMC MedSeries4 users are now able to run with little or no break in their routine, the hospital is more profitable. Staff and patients are happier as well because the system is more available.

"While gaining efficiencies within their day-end processes and implementing iTera's system availability products, iTera eliminated most downtime and added data recoverability improvements," adds iTera's Technical Manager, Scott Frame. "We gave UMC complete, easy-to-use solutions with near point-of-failure recovery should they ever experience some type of object or system failure."

"Many IT professionals are directly measured by the amount of uptime provided," summarizes McDonald. "iTera has solutions that reduce downtime to less than two minutes per day. That's revolutionary!"

About UMC

University Medical Center, affiliated with the University of Nevada School of Medicine, is the premier teaching hospital in Nevada. The medical center serves the medical needs of Southern Nevada and parts of California, Utah, and Arizona as well as the millions of visitors each year that come to fabulous Las Vegas.

Debbie Lewis is Marketing Director for iTera, Inc., a leading developer and integrator of high availability and continuous availability solutions for System i. iTera's products have been implemented at hundreds of organizations around the world, and the company has spent millions of dollars developing and perfecting its full range of system availability solutions. For more information, visit iTera's Web site or call 800.957.4511.


iTera, Inc.
5250 Wiley Post Way, Suite 500
Salt Lake City, UT 84116
800-957-4511 (USA and Canada)
801-799-0300 (Other countries)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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