The modern healthcare provider must evolve faster than ever before. New technologies, such as analytics, artificial intelligence and patient engagement have been top investments for healthcare providers for years, but IT has struggled to invest in these initiatives while maintaining their robust electronic healthcare records (EHR) infrastructure, which understandably requires the highest reliability performance.
IT leaders have found themselves refreshing the same type of storage infrastructure for decades, but what was revolutionary twenty years ago is now stale and a bottleneck to innovation. As older, mature platforms reach their limits, infrastructure vendors now focus their research and development budgets on newer solutions, such as hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). Over the last three years, HCI has quickly turned into an enterprise-grade storage solution, and it has reached reliability, availability and performance parity with incumbent technologies, while enabling broader IT transformation.
VMware’s recently published “Best Practices for VMware vSAN with Epic” highlights considerations around a small to medium size environment, specifically for the Epic Operational Database, and it shows the maturity of a software-based HCI solution to meet the exacting demands of the most mission-critical healthcare applications.
vSAN offers healthcare IT an opportunity to accelerate Epic deployments
Many IT organizations use Epic upgrades as an opportunity to refresh their infrastructure, and they’re looking for alternatives to their current solution, which is operationally complex and can’t keep up with today’s demands. IT needs a more flexible infrastructure that can adapt to changing situations, scale rapidly and be quickly adopted by current employees with minimal training. More IT organizations are looking to vSAN powered HCI to meet their needs, and they’re finding HCI can meet their needs while lowering operational complexity, increasing agility and lowering capital costs.
Most importantly, vSAN powered HCI lowers operational costs over traditional fibre channel SAN. HCI fundamentally changes how IT operates, giving unmatched flexibility to teams and agility to grow and adapt the infrastructure to the needs of the business. VMware HCI eliminates some of the most time-consuming storage tasks, while simplifying others through intuitive workflows and a high degree of automation. Systems administrators can take on managing both compute and storage resources, rather than relying on point product specialists. Every systems administrator can learn to manage HCI, and they can learn quickly. Storage provisioning is no longer an operational bottleneck, and IT can flex admins to take on additional tasks beyond managing the Epic ODB infrastructure due to the operational simplicity of HCI.
In addition, HCI is an agile solution that is much easier to scale than existing solutions. Introducing a new array into the data center typically requires months of planning prior to procurement and weeks to deploy. With HCI, rapid growth can be easily accommodated by adding a few servers. VMware Healthcare customers have been able to scale out their EHR infrastructure in just weeks, enabling them to respond to the current healthcare crisis without impacting patient care.
Also, VMware HCI lowers capital costs over traditional infrastructure. Fibre channel networking and an all-flash SAN array can easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in up front costs, plus ongoing maintenance. HCI, by using industry-standard x86 servers with all-flash or all-NVMe storage, can match the performance of dedicated SANs for a fraction of the price. A recent study from Forrester Consulting found a more than 60% reduction in CAPEX based on actual customer experiences. IT can use savings from adopting HCI to investing in other initiatives to improve patient outcomes.
VMware HCI Benefits All Healthcare Applications
VMware HCI is high-performance, general-purpose infrastructure than can be adopted for a variety of use cases beyond the Epic ODB. Key capabilities include integrated file services, Kubernetes integration and enterprise-grade data services, including dedupe and compression and software-based encryption.
Cheyenne Radiology, a medical imaging center that serves patients all over the western U.S., including sites in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming, use vSAN for picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) and virtual desktops (VDI), and they’ve seen “massive cost savings over traditional SAN,” with “power use about a quarter of what it was.” Cheyenne reduced their storage footprint by 20 TB due to dedupe and compression, and they have ample room for data center expansion for the next 5+ years due to the footprint reduction from HCI.
Helse Nord is geographically the largest health authority in Norway. It runs 11 hospitals, serving approximately 480,000 inhabitants from Kirkenes in the east, close to the Russian border, out to the island of Svalbard, west of the Norwegian Sea. Helse Nord employs more than 19,000 people, and is one of four health authorities in Norway, state-owned by the Department of Health. Helse Nord virtualized their compute and storage infrastructure, as well as empowered the employees managing services to manage the infrastructure, reducing job times from weeks to less than an hour. Data center expansion times have been reduced from weeks to hours, thanks to VMware HCI’s automation.