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This week NetApp issued a press release that described an organization that helps doctors match several hundred thousand potential bone marrow donors with cancer patients in need.  Using a coordinated international registry combined with sophisticated search algorithms, Be The Match is part of the National Marrow Donor Program – a 25 year old non-profit that is “dedicated to creating an opportunity for all patients to receive the bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant they need, when they need it.” 


...but something was very different about this press release:


Be The Match Leverages NetApp Technology to Help Save More Lives


When I saw this, I thought “Can NetApp technology really help save lives?” And if so, how?  I wanted to understand more of the bits and bytes behind the press release.


A quick search through the NetApp community lead me to what I was looking for.  Josh Thorstad, IT Architect for Be The Match, wrote an article in the Tech OnTap newsletter that gave me the answer.  Turns out when it comes to this sort of matching, timing is everything.  By the time recipients reach the stage where they require a marrow donation, they are often in pretty rough shape.  Finding the match is just the first step.  Once the match is made, a complex orchestration is performed where the donor is screened, the donation is made, and transferred to the waiting patient.  Needless to say, if the matching can be done quickly, the whole process benefits and lives can be saved.


Josh describes how, prior to NetApp’s involvement, his IT infrastructure consisted of 90 servers with no shared storage and no virtualized servers.  System upgrades were a problem, as was data backup and disaster recovery – resulting in unwanted and serious outages.  Then, slowly, Josh transitioned to a virtualized server environment with a robust shared storage infrastructure including automated backup and replication services.  Josh goes into much more detail in the article, including how he incorporated thin provisioning and (yes!) deduplication to add efficiencies as he improved the performance of his storage environment.  In the diagram below, he shows off his new infrastructure:


national marrow donor program storage architecture diagram

As I read this article it become clear that NetApp was indeed helping save lives through technology - as were the other vendors that participated in this transition from old to new.  Everyone involved should feel proud of their contribution - we are all technology vendors but in the end its people that create and implement these technologies.


Like many of you, I’ve had some unfortunate encounters with cancer in people close to me, but I’m happy to say I've also known courageous people that participated in the bone marrow donor registry.  It’s a great program and I encourage you to look into the information on Be The Match’s website and decide if it’s something you’d like to become involved with in some way.  For more information you can visit


Are you the match?




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