DataCore Software, a leading provider of storage virtualization, business continuity and disaster recovery software solutions, today announced yet another trailblazing customer – Homecare Homebase (HCHB) – that has met its most mission-critical business objectives through storage virtualization. With co-location sites in both the Dallas as well as Louisville metro areas, the HCHB IT team now uses DataCore to manage eight (8) terabytes at each site. There is an “Active-Active” architecture in place, whereby Dallas and Louisville-based customers run HCHB’s hosted application and also synchronize their data to each site across the Internet everyday. The system that DataCore supports in terms of backend storage currently supports over 15,000 concurrent users.
HCHB empowers the homecare and hospice industry to be more effective in providing healthcare to patients. Currently 4,375 office workers and over 11,000 field agents rely on applications running on HCHB’s IT systems infrastructure. Everything HCHB customers do is mobile and all of the applications HCHB offers these agents in the homecare industry are both mobile and real-time. “The combination of the VMware platform along with the DataCore SAN has really given us a lot of flexibility to more rapidly deploy consistent images of systems – especially in the Citrix farm,” explained Chris Kane, director of technical operations, Homecare Homebase. “In addition, the VMware-DataCore combination has given us much improved VMotion capability – where the SAN enables us to do maintenance on the host in the middle of the day, if we have to.”
Streamlining homecare and hospice efficiency
As part of the healthcare industry in general and supporting homecare and hospice specifically, HCHB’s customers benefit from the company’s hosted applications. They do so through two mechanisms offered by HCHB. One is the Citrix thin client space that HCHB hosts out of its Dallas and Louisville sites. The other is a Windows mobile device application called PointCare. HCHB agents and branch office users use these Citrix-powered applications to do scheduling, billing and reporting. The mobile agents that use those branch offices as their home base enter data in real-time on the mobile device, which is synchronized up to HCHB’s hosted synchronization severs at either site. “We at HCHB help our customers to provide better care for their patients,” said Kane. “Our customers’ caregivers are able to completely document their home health and hospice visits while they are caring for those patients – it is all done in real-time, on-the-spot.”
In terms of storage, before the DataCore SAN was introduced at both HCHB locations (Dallas and Louisville), the company was using a lot of local storage – scattered across many different systems. It had a couple of NAS (network attached storage) units that were in place – specifically Adaptec snap units, which had been working for some time. These were synchronizing data between both locations across a private connection. “We quickly outgrew the storage we had – both in terms of the amount of space presented by those units as well as the performance of those units,” noted Kane.
HCHB is a very big Microsoft SQL Server shop and tended to back-up all of its customer information using these snap units at each site to replicate for disaster recovery purposes. According to Kane, the units were just not able to keep up with the back-up planning and also the synchronization of the data. “The storage we had before DataCore became troublesome,” commented Kane. “We were in desperate need, not only of space, but also of reliable storage.”
DataCore partner The Mirazon Group served as a trusted IT advisor to HCHB in the selection process, helping HCHB review suitable SAN solutions, particularly Compellent and DataCore. On its own, HCHB looked at EqualLogic from Dell, LeftHand from HP, as well as EMC and NetApp. Noted Kane, “The DataCore SAN solution suits our IT administrative style better than the other solutions we saw. The more we looked at traditional SAN solutions – encompassing hardware, software and professional services – for us, these weren’t the type of solutions that we have typically dealt with. We have a lot of skilled technology people in house and we like to be able to get our hands on every piece of technology we bring in. The fact that DataCore is Windows-based gives us a little more control – particularly being able to manage the hardware ourselves. Moreover, DataCore gave us a full, high availability solution. Not to mention that DataCore is very competitive price-wise – so all of this made DataCore the best choice for us.”
A more consistent environment for customers + seamless maintenance for administrators
HCHB has two high-availability (HA) SANmelody™ pairs at both co-location sites. The company has full HA on all of the storage. There is a mixture of direct-attached storage (DAS) on its Supermicro SAN nodes, which connects through a Fibre Channel connection to additional Xiotech storage from an Emprise 5000. The DataCore SAN is fully dedicated for HCHB’s virtual environment. In terms of virtual infrastructure, HCHB is a VMware vSphere shop. All the virtual servers running within the VMware virtual infrastructure are plugged into the SAN. HCHB has also replaced its Citrix application tier and replacing all of its physical, Citrix “pizza boxes” with virtual machines. Future plans include hosting SQL databases on the SAN in 2010.
Virtualizing the Citrix environment with VMware and DataCore running in tandem has provided a real, tangible benefit in terms of system maintenance and administration. Before – with the physical, Citrix environment, the IT team at HCHB was very limited in terms of what they could do with those systems during the working day. “Just the patch management aspect of keeping up with all the physical boxes has been greatly improved in the virtual environment because we can deploy patch templates versus having to constantly update from Microsoft or other vendors,” added Kane.
Real benefit – for customers and for system engineers
With the SAN in place, the virtual environment at HCHB has delivered real benefits to customers and system administrators alike. These benefits are a direct result of the improvements made possible through these new virtualization capabilities. For instance, HCHB as a whole is able to roll out new services more rapidly and consistently. Moreover, the current databases and applications that HCHB uses internally to run its business, such as file servers (documentation that support internal needs) or Microsoft Office Sharepoint (that supports customers), have benefited – either directly or indirectly – from the VMware virtual infrastructure and the DataCore storage virtualization SAN.
In all, HCHB has 75 virtual machines running within the virtual infrastructure in Dallas and all are actively providing services. At the Louisville site, HCHB has 125 VMs online. At both locations, HCHB has duplicated both its storage and its SAN nodes. DataCore runs on Supermicro servers, mirrored to the same hardware at each location. Xiotech Emprise 5000 units have been added for growth and are connected via Fibre Channel to each SAN server at each location.
“It has been very rapid growth for us recently,” summarized Kane. “And I am very, very happy with the performance we are getting both out of VMware and the DataCore SAN at this point. The SAN has made a world of difference to us. There were many choices for a SAN – from a variety of SAN vendors. For us, DataCore was the right fit. DataCore gives us the ability to select and maintain the hardware of our own choice. It gives us the ability to have a fully redundant, highly available SAN – not just at the controller-level, but at the storage-level itself. That, combined with the price point DataCore’s portable SAN software offers – even when having to purchase hardware and licensing – is still much more effective than anything else we found on the market.”
About Homecare Homebase, LP
Homecare Homebase is a privately held software development company headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Founded in 1999 by industry veterans, Homecare Homebase offers a comprehensive integrated web-based software solution to improve the clinical, operational and financial success of homecare and hospice agencies. For more information, visit our web site at http://www.hchb.com or contact us toll free at 1-866-535-HCHB (4242).