The Business Challenge
Illness does not take a holiday; therefore, high availability of data is critical to patient care.
That is why Western Health (WH) used Microsoft Hyper-V to virtualise nearly all of the systems and applications on its physical servers. Approximately 250 virtual machines (VMs), which run on a Cisco UCS solution for EMC VSPEX, support electronic medical records, document processing and web interfaces. Having an exceptionally efficient information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure is key for Western Health because its facilities operate 24x7x365.
Western Health is a very progressive and forward-thinking organisation, and its ICT infrastructure has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. As recently as 2009, it relied heavily on manually intensive and predominantly paper-based operations for both clinical and administrative business areas.
Within a few years, Western Health had deployed a digital medical record system for the clinical sector that stores a range of information collected through a combination of methods: integrated messaging from other clinical systems, bar-code scanning of paper-based clinical notes and electronic messaging via an e-health gateway for acute, primary and community care staff. Western Health also deployed WiFi in clinical areas that support bring-your-own-device mobility for access to clinical applications through a Citrix access gateway. The ICT team is part-way through another project to deploy context switching and single sign-on convenience for patients.
During the same time period on the administrative side of the business, Western Health deployed an in-house, customised business intelligence system and a Microsoft SharePoint collaboration platform that provides updated Intranet and Internet access, transforms document and records management and introduces automated business workflows including electronic leave management. Western Health also deployed Microsoft Lync technology so colleagues can liaise across multiple campuses.
In addition to being an early adopter of virtualisation, Western Health was a beta user and launch partner for Microsoft Windows Server 2012. Members of the ICT team chose a Cisco UCS solution for their Hyper-V VMs because it solved several problems they had encountered in the past, such as blade configuration portability and limited network throughout. When they experienced data recoverability constraints with their legacy VM backup tool, team members began looking for a new solution.
The legacy backup tool required agents; therefore, VMs were restarted unnecessarily whenever agents were upgraded. Licensing and deploying new agents was expensive and time-consuming as well. The legacy tool also required backups to be routed via the backup server rather than go directly to Western Health’s deduplication storage appliance, causing bottlenecks that decreased backup speed. In addition, the legacy backup tool required the entire host to be restarted, even if the problem was within a single VM, causing the host to miss the weekly backup window, which presented significant risks.
“Our legacy backup tool did not support the modern architecture of our virtual environment,” said Cameron McBride, Manager, Systems and Software Solutions at Western Health. “We had several criterion for a new backup and recovery solution. It had to be designed specifically for virtual environments, support Hyper-V, provide fast backup and recovery, be agentless and back up directly to our deduplication storage appliance.”
McBride said price was a factor too.
“At Western Health we always have an ear to the ground for effective, efficient technologies that provide value and meet our required business needs,” he added.
The Veeam Solution
Western Health chose Veeam® Backup & Replication™ to protect its Hyper-V environment and ensure data is always available for patient care. Veeam is a powerful, easy-to-use and affordable solution that provides fast, reliable backup and recovery for Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere.
“Veeam offered support for Hyper-V much earlier than other vendors, which allowed us to back up our Hyper-V VMs shortly after we installed a beta version of Windows Server 2012,” McBride said. “Veeam also offered multi-hypervisor support earlier than other vendors. We have a very small VMware environment for applications that can’t be virtualised on Hyper-V, so using one backup solution for both environments is very efficient.”
McBride said VM backup and recovery are considerably faster with Veeam, and because Veeam is storage-agnostic, it can back up directly to Western Health’s deduplication storage appliance; therefore, the bottlenecks are gone.
“Since we work in a 24x7x365 environment our aim is to have the least amount of impact on production servers when backing up VMs,” he explained. “We have found Veeam to be 10 times faster in both backup and recovery, and it’s less CPU-intensive compared to our previous backup tools. Backing up directly to the duplication appliance lets us fully utilize the bandwidth we allocated for backup, so backup speed has increased significantly.”
Jason Whakaari, Executive Director, ICT, Capital and Contracts at Western Health, said Veeam Backup & Replication is a good example of a disruptive technology that provides huge strides in virtualisation.
“Veeam differs from legacy backup products because it’s designed specifically for the virtual world,” he explained. “For example, Veeam doesn’t require expensive agents, making deployment and setup fast and easy. Veeam Software focuses solely on future requirements in the virtual world and not legacy requirements in the physical world, enabling Veeam Backup & Replication to leap well beyond other backup tools. Veeam Software puts all of its energy behind virtual backup, which has reduced the complexity of VM backup while providing excellent results.”
An additional benefit to Western Health is Veeam’s affordability. Veeam is licensed per CPU socket. There are no per-application, per-VM or per-host fees. Licenses can be purchased for any mix of hypervisors and can be swapped between hypervisors free of charge. Whakaari said Gartner analysts placed Veeam Software in its visionaries quadrant for enterprise backup due to Veeam’s functionality and execution.
“Having looked at features coming in each new version of Veeam Backup & Replication, it’s apparent that Veeam Software listens to its customers, which many vendors do not do,” Whakaari said. “For example, Veeam’s Built-in WAN Acceleration is important to us and to other customers. We have a smaller site where we don’t have a tremendous amount of data, but we do have backup requirements. We’ll take advantage of Veeam’s Built-in WAN Acceleration to reduce our bandwidth footprint. We’re always thinking of ways to keep bandwidth as wide as possible because our staff requires substantial bandwidth for sending radiology images. Another Veeam feature we’re considering is native tape support because we can take advantage of an existing tape library.”
McBride echoed Whakaari’s sentiment of Veeam’s ability to reduce complexities for ICT teams.
“We have many other products that keep team members busy, but Veeam is different. It’s so easy to use that we can conduct quick training to achieve the outcomes we want,” McBride explained. “Compared to other backup tools, you’d need to set up a team member in a full course of training to make sure he’s fully leveraging the tool. Veeam is also extremely intuitive and doesn’t have limitations like physical backup tools. It’s an easy and more approachable solution.”
Fast, efficient and agentless backup and recovery
Veeam Backup & Replication was developed specifically for virtual environments, making backup, recovery and granular restore 10 times faster at Western Health. “Veeam is an excellent solution because it doesn’t require agents, and it’s easy to set up and understand. The speed benefits alone make it worth looking into,” McBride said.
Comprehensive VM protection for Hyper-V and VMware
Western Health chose Veeam Backup & Replication to resolve problems in its Hyper-V environment and ensure fast VM recovery so data is always available for patient care. Veeam offers multi-hypervisor support; therefore, Veeam protects VMs in Western Health’s VMware environment as well.
Storage-agnostic approach meets Western Health’s business needs
Veeam leverages a storage-agnostic approach that provides organisations with a wide array of flexible storage options. This approach not only gives Western Health the ability to build on its existing storage infrastructure, it also reduces backup time.