My role at Nutanix gives me plenty of opportunities to learn interesting new areas of technology. One of these new areas is the Healthcare space in which I have the opportunity to work with a pool of very talented sales, alliances and system engineering leaders.
The healthcare industry has long been overburdened by slow moving innovation due to the complexity of the medical ecosystem. IT people in this industry will tell you that Healthcare is one of the most traditional and averse to change industries.
In my personal view this is true due to the highly regulated industry where a simple mishap with system availability, security or compliance can easily become a very expensive lawsuit – and no healthcare entity, provider or software vendor, like to go through this. Just imagine the craziness that goes into a hospital if any system stops working, from patient check-in to MRI equipment, chaos would ensue. This can be a critical life and death type scenario in many healthcare environments. (image source: Arlington Healthcare Group)
Given the circumstances, it is reasonable that many of the technology and software providers in the healthcare space are reticent to change and require infrastructure suppliers to abide to certain requirements around performance, stability, security and availability.
The good news is that the healthcare industry is without doubt currently witnessing amazing innovation and technology transformation. Everything from new artificial hearts to electronic aspirin and nanobots, the healthcare industry is slowly but surely becoming more agile, effective and cost-effective. Read this article talking about some amazing innovations such as Nanobots in Blood and Augmenting Human Capabilities. Pretty amazing stuff coming our way to make our lives better.
We are currently on the cusp of change in Healthcare infrastructure and Nutanix is already playing a fundamental role in transforming healthcare experience and supporting innovation from inside hospital datacenters and server rooms, supporting EHR/EMR platforms with massive IOPs and throughput performance requirements, or radiological and imaging systems such as VNA and PACS with mammoth deep and cheap storage needs; or even traditional workloads such as Microsoft and Oracle.
VDI continues to be a stronghold for Nutanix in the healthcare market. EMR systems vendors such as Cerner and Epic Systems are often remotely accessed using Citrix Systems technology and also offering an extra layer of protection by making sure information is never on the device used to access it. Instead, the critical data stays inside the data center, where it’s easier to protect. Beyond that mobile access also allows healthcare professionals to take their devices from room to room with them, resulting in a more fluid, versatile approach to in-patient care.
The tenets in which the Nutanix platform was built perfectly suits the current transformation where external pressures are weighing on healthcare providers at an unprecedented rate. From the Affordable Care Act to ICD-10 conversion, providers are being forced to flexibly adjust to market pressures in order to remain competitive. Not unlike the unprecedented change that forced Google to consider a new way of deploying applications, healthcare providers must look at the entire IT stack and address inefficiencies. With healthcare in mind here are what we consider the core strength of our platform.
Minimize Risk and Increase System Availability
- System Automation provides consistency and stability for critical applications (EMR, PACS, etc.). This drives improved uptime and availability of systems, leading to increased clinician satisfaction and patient safety.
- Maintain consistent Storage and Hypervisor software versions across all environments. Eliminate the risk associated with “version drift”.
- World class support with a single number to call for system infrastructure.
- Streamlined integrated management, monitoring and capacity tools, all from one vendor and in a single web view.
- Prevention of downtime and degraded performance through automation. System automatically notifies IT personnel of issues, which allows staff to take immediate corrective action.
Increase Security and Protect PHI
- U.S. Department of Defense level security with automated ‘self-healing’ infrastructure
- STIG certified, automated tracking, logging and remediation of infractions
- FIPS 140-2 Level 2 encryption
- Certified for IBM Tivoli Security Key Lifecycle Manager (SKLM)
Increase Purchase Predictability and Reduce TCO
- Incremental purchasing vs. front-loaded purchasing reduces managed CAPEX and depreciation of equipment. Customers can start with smaller building blocks and grow the Nutanix infrastructure as their user-count and application requirements grow
- Moore’s Law – greater density and performance by bringing the newest Nutanix nodes into the cluster. No longer depend on 5-year refresh cycles to incorporate latest processors into the environment. Also experience improved performance following software upgrades, while using same hardware
- Reduced maintenance costs: Rightsized environment = less upfront equipment = only paying maintenance for equipment in use
- Drastically simplified management = IT staff realignment to higher-value functions (applications, analytics, etc.)
- Significant reduction in physical footprint (data center space, cooling, power) compared to legacy and converged platforms
- Lower training costs for engineers as automation takes care of most functions
Increased Agility Supports Delivery of Value-Based Care
- High-performing infrastructure = reliable and responsive technology for doctors and nurses
- Shifting IT staff’s environment maintenance focus to forward-looking/progressive projects
- More flexible software-defined infrastructure allow customers to easily adapt to industry regulations (ICD9/10/11…, Affordable Care Act, HIPAA)
- Easily integrate M&A activities without large capital expenditures
Nutanix platform is currently helping healthcare organizations across the globe running the most important and business critical EHR and PACS/VNA systems in the world,
such as Epic, MEDITECH, AllScripts, Cerner, McKesson, eClinicalWorks, UroChart, Medhost, MERGE, Intelerad, FujiFilm Synapse and others (see Magic Quadrant for Enterprise EHR Systems, 2015). In full disclosure, not all components or modules from all the above-mentioned EHR systems are formally certified by the vendors to run on Nutanix today, and we are diligently working with vendors to attain the certifications, if required. The logos above are just a small sample of healthcare organizations running their critical systems on Nutanix.
We are also doing all the necessary due diligence validating healthcare solutions within our performance engineering and solutions teams. Here is some excellent collateral on a variety of healthcare systems. Here is another brief on Epic Systems specifically.
PACS and VNA made easy with Nutanix File Services
Whilst Nutanix is well-known for solving the primary storage performance and capacity conundrum where generally speaking the most important is $/IO and whereas flash technology play a key role in continuously driving costs down, customers still utilizing external NAS for storing unstructured data for PACS and VNA systems, where the most important generally is $/GB and high availability. I am talking about cheap and deep storage for large quantities of data that do not require first tier performance.
Combined with data avoidance techniques, compression and adaptive de-duplication, Erasure Coding (link), and a cheap and deep storage only node, the Nutanix File Services is a native scale-out service completely integrated and managed via Nutanix PRISM interface. When more resiliency or performance (throughput or IOps) is required the system add new NAS heads and/or increase head resources across the cluster; and when more capacity is required the system extends the NAS file system using cluster storage resources, and when available in the next month or two it will not be necessary to have additional external NAS heads or Windows File Servers for hosting PACS and VNA systems, providing rapid and reliable access to images required by physicians—anywhere, any time.
In short, the Healthcare industry is innovating fast and the datacenter infrastructure is now able to support these incredible advancements, it’s an exciting time to be a part of this revolution. I will be writing more about Nutanix and Healthcare.