Datacenter storage costs can be as high as 50% of healthcare capital budgets.  Storage Policy-Based Management (SPBM) saves capital cost, providing a higher level of performance at a more manageable cost.  Clinicians rely on the VMware platform for their applications, which are required to deliver care.  It is our responsibility to continuously provide a better platform and improve patient experience.

Traditional and Tiered Storage Models


In the traditional storage model, logical storage volumes are created.  In most storage arrays, this is a single type and speed of storage. For many years, storage and virtualization teams focused on moving workloads between storage tiers, and overbuilt the storage to provide expected performance.  This is similar to a hospital where patient rooms may be awkwardly shaped with unusable space for patients and providers.  From an architectural perspective, this is less than ideal.

With tiered storage, the ability to move workloads within an array was introduced.  Sometimes a single virtual machine might be spread across different types of storage within the storage array.  This was more efficient, but requires high performance storage for the entire amount that may need to be available based on projected workloads.  You never want to be in a situation where the high performance tier is undersized.  Compare this to an emergency room; where providers should be productive and not idle, keeping in mind there needs to be enough providers on site in case you have a high volume of trauma patients.

Storage Policy Based Management


Storage Policy-Based Management (SPBM)  introduces the idea that the characteristics of the storage should be presented to the virtual environment.  From the time the virtual machine is created, it is given a set of characteristics, or policy it should have, such as snapshots, replication, performance tiers, etc.  The system can then ensure appropriate placement, and if the characteristics on a specific storage system change, the virtual machine is then moved to meet the required policy.  If the administrator or the system make a change to the policy, the virtual machine is moved as needed to maintain compliance.

SPBM is similar to how a patient might be moved through a hospital during his/her stay.  When he/she comes in through intake, he/she is given a patient identification, which is essentially a policy.  The patient is placed in the appropriate area for his/her needs; trauma patients to the emergency room, surgical patients to the surgery center.  As needs change, the patient is moved; post surgery, recovery, etc.

From a storage perspective, we have now introduced the storage system to vCenter.  They are sharing information, and working together, much like a patient care team might work together to give that patient, the virtual machine in this case, the best possible care.

Software Defined Storage Versus Storage Arrays


Applying this to healthcare data centers; how does this look when we are faced with so many array vendors, and now with Virtual SAN, VSAN from VMware?  Simply put, SPBM, is independent.  Placed in front of a Virtual Volumes enabled storage array, it will look similar to a VSAN datastore.  SPBM is the engine which sits between the storage and the virtual machine to ensure policies are complied with.

This is akin to the hospital administrators who are often between the providers and the patients.  Rarely do they need to interact, but they are there making sure the experience is a smooth one, and the details are seamless.  Without the administrators, the rooms might not be cleaned as thoroughly, and food services may be less efficient.
VSAN is production ready, and a number of large enterprise healthcare organizations are taking advantage of it today for their most critical workloads.  In nearly every case, it is not a matter of software defined storage versus array based storage, but rather determining the right storage for the right application.  VSAN can easily coexist and provide an additional layer of performance storage at a significant cost savings, and a path to better provider experiences and patient care.

Storage Policy-Based Management saves capital cost, providing a more efficient storage management model for Healthcare IT.  Stuart Gerson, a former acting Attorney General, stated, “Changes in the status quo threaten people who are wedded to the status quo.”  As we work to improve patient care through technology, it is imperative that we find new ways to solve problems, and keep costs down.