Long-term medical care provider Kindred Healthcare Inc. has completed a storage networking project that reduced its port costs by $160,000, consolidated 26 switches into four and created a dual-redundant Fibre Channel network that increased reliability and added long-distance replication for disaster recovery.

Tim Hesson, director of storage management at Kindred, said this week that two new storage-area networks (SAN) using four Cisco Systems Inc. MDS 9509 Multilayer Director Switches (MDS) have replaced the old one, which was made up of McData Corp. directors and switches. The new SANs provide 800 ports.

The consolidation freed up 100 switch ports that had been used in the old network just to link all the switches together.

Hesson said the new SAN design lowered the company’s Fibre Channel per-port costs by $200 each and gave every server two data paths -- so if one director goes down, it automatically fails over to a secondary network.

“I’m protected from a blade failure. I’m protected form a [switch] chassis failure. I’m protected from a cable failure, and I’m protected from a [host bus adapter] failure. I have end-to-end redundancy,” Hesson said. “I think right now we’re getting really close to four 9s [storage reliability].”

In 2004, with more than 50,000 employees in 350 facilities, Kindred found its data needs quickly outpacing its storage networking capabilities. The company also needed to set up a more proactive disaster recovery plan, Hesson said.

The Fortune 500 company’s data center is located at its Louisville, Ky., headquarters, with remote servers on a WAN deployed across the country.

For its disaster recovery plan, the company ships backup tapes to a Sungard facility. But server rebuilds only occur once an emergency declaration has been issued by Kindred, which would slow its ability to get back online.

Kindred wanted to be able to replicate data over the WAN to Sungard where data could be stored on disk and made available at a moment’s notice.

With that goal in mind, Hesson’s storage team this year plans to complete a dual network remote disaster recovery SAN based on two modular Cisco 9216i Multilayer Fabric Switches