Hyperconverged infrastructure combines storage, computing and networking into a single system. This architecture, compared with traditional data centers, makes HCI cheaper to operate, easier to manage, more scalable and more agile. It’s no wonder that enterprises in just about every industry are migrating to HCI — and healthcare is no exception.
Transparency Market Research predicts the healthcare industry’s share of the HCI market to have a compound annual growth rate of nearly 42 percent through 2025.
This shift is partly the byproduct of two trends: the growing adoption of digital information storage systems and an increasing use of smartphone-based technologies for patient interaction, the firm says. For example, healthcare vendors such as Epic have spent the past few years making it easier to migrate applications such as electronic health records to an HCI environment.
HCI’s benefits to healthcare are still being realized, but the technology is worth the consideration of IT teams hoping to simplify their workloads, enhance performance and reduce system maintenance — even though its advantages might not be immediately obvious.
For instance, one hospital migrated its picture archiving and communication system (PACS) to a Nutanix HCI cluster. “PACS might seem like an odd candidate for virtualization,” says Logan Ayers, CDW principal inside solution architect for data centers. “But for them, eliminating the expense of owning and operating storage arrays made it worth the effort.”
HCI Enhances Performance, Protection and Predictability
HCI can provide an added layer of protection against potential disasters. That’s the case at Baystate Health, an integrated health system in Springfield, Mass., which deployed VMware vSAN and VMware NSX on Cisco UCS C-series servers at three sites. The HCI migration quickly paid off by maintaining operations when construction work unexpectedly cut off one of the data centers.
“This technology is a relatively inexpensive way of achieving a high level of disaster recovery, but also better performance,” Michael Feld, former Baystate Health acting CTO, told HealthTech.
St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers, N.Y., is a precise example of that performance boost. Deploying five Hewlett Packard Enterprise SimpliVity OmniCube CN-3000 hyperconverged appliances yielded a 50 percent increase in performance — prompting the hospital to add two more OmniCube CN-3000 appliances and two CN-3400 OmniCube devices.
Another big draw of HCI is the simplicity it offers. The infrastructure provides a streamlined, single-vendor alternative to the hodgepodge of legacy systems that are a frequent byproduct of healthcare mergers and acquisitions. For instance, the Keck Medicine hospital system at the University of Southern California had 14 storage solutions and six server technologies. All that was replaced with Nutanix HCI, which reduced application response times, streamlined the upgrade process and stabilized costs.
“It’s made it really simple because suddenly you’re not talking to 12 different vendors,” says Scott Voigts, Keck Medicine’s director of infrastructure. “And it’s standardized our cost because we get more predictable spin over time.”
Start by Developing an HCI Roadmap
As with any major IT endeavor, security should remain a top consideration when migrating to an HCI environment. One approach that migrating organizations are taking: scrutinizing how each HCI solution handles key encryption.
Although the actual deployment of this method can differ from organization to organization (some require a dedicated server for managing keys, others opt to save money by encrypting keys internally), the benefits of key encryption remain largely the same: support for more operations at a faster pace with higher security at a lower overall cost.
It’s also important to understand which types of applications should migrate first — or at all. For instance, Ayers recommends starting with virtual desktop infrastructure, printer and domain servers, general-purpose virtual machines and Exchange, rather than EHR backbones and Tier 1 databases. That’s a solid foundation for growth, performance and savings — exactly what every healthcare organization needs these days.