Fully Virtual and Fully EMC: Storage and Backup Couldn’t Be Easier

Healthcare Realty (NYSE:HR) is a real estate investment trust that owns, manages, and develops healthcare related properties throughout the United States. We have about 250 employees, most in management offices throughout the country. We have two data centers that serve as the remote backup site for each other. We’re 100% virtualized, using VMware. We’re committed to Microsoft solutions, and we run proprietary real estate and facilities management applications.

Our users are mostly internal and run our real estate application, SQL, Office applications, a facilities management system and other applications that keep our business moving. Everyone shares a common data set, and it’s critical that the people in our regional offices have the same level of application performance that we have in the corporate office.

We’ve found that IT performance is better and IT administration is easier than before because of EMC. We use a number of EMC solutions including: flash-optimized VNX unified storage with FAST Cache and FAST VP for automated storage tiering and NetWorker, RecoverPoint and Data Domain for data protection.

We’ve seen performance gains in a lot of areas. Because we’re fully virtualized, we have a high duplication rate for all our OS-level blocks. Before VNX block deduplication, each piece of data had to be referenced uniquely, which made it tough to deliver the maximum efficiency out of FAST Cache. With deduplication, we’ve improved cache hit rates and read performance, reduced the number of spindles we have to purchase, and shrunk our storage footprint by about 30%.

The VNX increased the performance of SQL too. In fact, our SQL developers told us they noticed an immediate performance bump, with query results coming back faster due to reduced read and write latency.

EMC makes my job—everybody’s job—easier. Our service desk can perform restores without having to know anything about NetWorker because there’s file-level access to the backup/recovery appliance from a web page. That reduced the time to perform a restore from up to an hour to minutes. One of the things our system administrators are very enthusiastic about is the ability to establish storage and backup policies. Policies include frequency of backup, frequency of remote cloning, length of retention, and so on. We define those policies in NetWorker just once, and then apply them to the VMs as needed, instead of creating and assigning them to each VM, one at a time.

One last thing. We rely a lot on the tight integration between EMC and VMware—we even use the EMC Virtual Storage Integrator (VSI) for heightened simplicity and efficiency. We use NetWorker and VMware’s Changed Block Tracking, to create small, fast and completely agentless backups. We do one full backup of a VM, and incrementals from then on. That’s huge for us; today, we’re backing up servers with a terabyte of data in just a few minutes.

It’s so simple. I love it. Everybody loves it.

About the Author: Robert Dillard