Healthcare Provider Cures SAN Problem With HCI

When it comes to IT, complexity is clearly the enemy. The more complex something is, the more likely it is to fail, and the process of fixing it will be extended.

With those issues in mind, Penobscot Community Health Care in Maine decided to deploy an OmniStack hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) platform based on software developed by SimpliVity, which was recently acquired by Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. While SimpliVity gives organizations the option of licensing only its software or also buying its hardware, the healthcare provider opted for the latter approach because most of its existing IT infrastructure was too dated to justify continuing support, reports Jason Lewis, director of IT infrastructure and security.

In fact, Lewis notes that the price quote Penobscot Community Health received to upgrade its storage area network (SAN) was more expensive that a SimpliVity HCI platform that combines compute and storage in a single platform that is simpler to manage.

He adds that what really sealed the deal was the fact that SimpliVity includes data protection and automated disaster recovery (DR) tools that are integrated into the core platform. That eliminated the need for him to set up a suite of backup and recovery applications from a third-party vendor on his own. Lewis adds that OmniStack eliminated a disaster recovery issue for the healthcare provider.

In addition to the SimpliVity approach being simpler, it’s also a lot faster. Previously, it would take Penobscot 12 hours to back up 1TB of data. That process is now down to 30 minutes.

“We didn’t have a DR solution in place,” says Lewis. “Having something that is both easy and built in is something I really like.”

Reducing the Complexity of IT

Like a lot of IT organizations that are short-handed, Penobscot Community Health Care is focused on reducing the complexity of IT. It is now running 90 virtual machines across four 2u instances of OmniStack appliances that are linked to two additional OmniStack appliances running a remote data center facility. Disaster recovery is enabled because all workloads running on top of those virtual machines are backed up using data management tools baked into the SimpliVity operating environment.

In general, there’s a massive shift under way to HCI platforms that unify server and storage management as IT organizations aim to reduce both the cost of acquiring IT infrastructure and the total cost of operating it. Eric Slack, a senior analyst with the Evaluator Group, says the shift is most pronounced in small-to-midsize businesses, such as Penobscot Community Health Care, because they are trying to reduce the complexity of their IT environments. Most SMBs have fairly small IT staffs, so the less time spent on deploying and configuring systems directly equates to faster application deployments.

“There’s a strong desire is to eliminate integration and implementation time,” says Slack. “It’s all about reducing the time to data.”

The HCI trend, he says, is a logical extension of the initial shift to converged infrastructure (CI) that resulted in better packaging of servers, storage and networking in the same rack system. HCI takes that concept a step further by employing a layer of software to manage IT infrastructure by using a turnkey appliance.

But while SMBs are rapidly adopting HCI platforms, Slack says traditional enterprises are deploying HCI appliances for specific use cases, such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Most enterprises already have massive investments in IT infrastructure that they are reluctant to abandon, he points out.

Because of that issue, Slack says that most of the providers of HCI systems also make their software available for deployment on both existing IT infrastructure and in public cloud computing environments.

It remains to be seen to what degree HCI, in one form or another, will dominate IT environments. The one thing that is clear is that the cure for the ills associated with overly complex IT environments now often starts with a strong dose of HCI.