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Hewlett-Packard has unveiled updates to its Medical Archive Solution that it said will expand its storage market share and boost revenue for channel partners in the lucrative digital records archiving space.

HP’s MAS, initially released in February 2005, comprises industry-standard hardware and software, including ProLiant servers, StorageWorks SAN and MSA (modular smart array) disk storage, HP said. The hardware is coupled with StorageGrid indexing, management and search software that HP co-developed and OEMs for ByCast, a Canadian software vendor, said Lisa Dali, the company’s MAS worldwide product marketing manager.

The enhancements include compatibility with more than 30 PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications Systems) vendors, an “always on” capability for instant access to images, and automated failover that eliminates the need for a “hot spare” and a manual disaster recovery process in the event of hardware failure, Dali said.

The MAS enhancements give HP channel partners the ability to cover all industry segments and health care customers of all sizes, Dali said. With approximately 6,000 single-site imaging clinics in the United States alone, the sales opportunity for HP channel partners is significant, said Dali.

“This is MAS for the masses,” Dali said. “We wanted to be able to provide scalable, instant functionality out of the box to simplify things both for the channel and for customers.” The MAS’ modularity can be a selling point for partners because a customer can start small and add capabilities and space as their storage needs grow, she said. The MAS’ modular nature makes it a good fit for both new health care customers and for upgrade sales into an existing customer base.

Pointer Click here to read more about how HP intends to focus more on storage in 2008.

“PACS technology is constantly changing, and as it changes the images get bigger,” said Tom Vaughan, director of IT infrastructure at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. RPCI currently has two MAS systems in place, one used to store PACS files and the other for research study data conducted at the institute, Vaughan said. Newer PACS technology has caused file sizes to increase exponentially, he said, and while one image used to take up the same amount of storage space as one data file, now an image consumes as much space as 60 files.

The scalability of MAS makes it easy for RPCI to add storage when it’s needed, said Vaughan, adding that automatic failover is also a key feature. “We have four server people to take care of over 300 machines,” he said, and so the ability to automate failover in the event of a disaster means that data loss isn’t as deadly a threat as it used to be. “Now I can sleep at night knowing that the data is going to be there!” Vaughan said.

The MAS enhancements also allow it to integrate with a greater number of storage technologies, including tape, disk and SCSI, said Dali. Customers can interchange the types of removable storage based on the age or value of the data they need to archive, she said. Older, less-frequently accessed and less critical data can be stored on tape, while newer, frequently referenced patient records can be stored on disk, she explained.

HP also announced a new Compact MAS line targeted specifically for single-site imaging clinics and small hospitals, Dali said. The Compact MAS line comprises a single-server/storage node for customers who need less than a terabyte of storage, she said.

While the original MAS line was introduced to cater to SMB (small and midsize business) health care customers, HP has customer installations as large as an 800-user hospital network in Arizona, but the company didn’t feel the MAS line was effectively catering to the opposite end of the spectrum, Dali said.

Dali also said that the Compact line fills a need for some of the largest PACS vendors such as McKesson, General Electric and Siemens, which were clamoring for a lower-cost hardware and software product to compete more effectively with rival EMC.

MAS is available now, and HP said it is currently installed in 175 facilities in 15 countries around the world.