Take Control of Your Data Center with Hybrid Infrastructure and Managed Services
At a hospital, sometimes it’s all hands on deck. Even IT teams are on the move, tending to devices and workstations. When even the slightest delay in service can affect patient outcomes, there’s no time to spend on managing a data center.
I’m the CIO of Dorado Health, and sinking time into the data center is exactly what my IT teams and I found ourselves doing. It was taking us away from the long-term planning and security training that’s crucial for healthcare environments.
Dorado Health consists of four hospitals and multiple clinics in Puerto Rico. All our hospitals are interconnected, but each hospital has its own IT team and data center. Our situation in Puerto Rico is very different from hospitals on the mainland US, where hospital IT departments can be very large. IT teams at each of our hospitals are very small: five to seven people at the most. The network administrator at one hospital may be the same person who creates virtual servers and oversees backups. We do a lot with a little, but our environment wasn’t helping.
Overexpanding the Data Center
I’ve been with Dorado Health for a decade, and there are some servers here that predate my tenure. We already had virtualization when I started here, but our footprint continued to grow, stretching the limits of our environment. At first, we had only two hospitals, but then we acquired two more. The challenge was to provide ever more storage, CPU, memory, and other resources to handle the increasing number of applications. These challenges only compounded after we implemented our new EHR software, Meditech, in 2017. Meditech is server-intensive, and it requires us to obtain new equipment and hardware. This made things only more difficult—and costly—to manage.
We constantly ran out of storage, and the only way around that was to buy more storage. Every year we needed to make huge investments in new servers. Let's say we need 50 terabytes of data storage for our PACS (medical imaging technology), so we make a huge upfront investment to buy servers to satisfy that need. But it could take us a couple of years to reach the capacity of those servers. For example, 15 terabytes could satisfy our needs for six months or a year, but in the meantime, we were paying for the maintenance, support, and capacity on infrastructure we were not using. Our environment was always growing, but we never really had the option to buy exactly what we needed, when we needed it.
Once we adopted Meditech, the data center situation really started to getting out of hand. I knew we couldn’t continue to manage it without hiring more engineers, which was not an option for us. I thought the cloud might be the answer, and I made a plan for a cloud migration, starting with Microsoft 365 and then Meditech. But costs were still high and budgeting wasn’t much easier.
My business is not managing data centers. My business is to support our hospitals, which includes maintaining and protecting patient data. To do that, I had to find a way to simplify our architecture and offload our maintenance even more.
Rightsizing Our Data Center with All the Benefits of the Cloud
We had used a lot of vendors for our storage needs, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) was one of them. We were familiar with their hardware, but not all of their offerings. I had been going to various technology conventions for a number of years and hearing about HPE GreenLake. At first, the platform seemed small, but over time the buzz around it grew, and it became impossible for me to ignore anymore. I saw how much the HPE Greenlake platform had matured, and I asked HPE for a proposal.
I found the HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform was attractive for a number of reasons. We wanted to keep and maintain some of our hardware on-prem because we were concerned that moving some of our applications, like PACS, to the cloud would lead to latency issues. They needed to be in a very fast environment, and the HPE GreenLake platform allowed for that while providing us the benefits of the cloud. We could also use HPE GreenLake Management Services (GMS) to help minimize and reduce the size of our data centers while offloading some of the management to professionals at HPE. We could access all the storage resources we needed on the fly—and pay for only the storage we used. No other vendors had a program similar to HPE GreenLake.
We were sold on the platform but implementation was another hurdle. Ours is a complex environment, so we worked with the services team from HPE to analyze and right-size everything to fit our needs. Throughout the implementation, HPE’s support team has always been available to work through any concerns. To date, we have moved most servers to the new platform and are just finishing moving the final few applications we want to move to the cloud.
Peak Performance, Storage, and Peace of Mind
Among our new equipment, we adopted the HPE Alletra, dHCI with AMD-based HPE ProLiant servers, HPE Nimble Storage for storage and HPE Apollo 4200 systems for high-performance compute. We are very happy with how easily the new hardware handles our applications. Now, almost everything is in solid states, so everything runs really fast. In addition to Meditech and our PACS, we use Sectra for radiology imaging, and that’s very resource-intensive, too. We manage around 400,000 images per year in our hospitals, and the imaging systems work flawlessly with our new servers. Every one of our departments uses Meditech, which we now have running on the HPE GreenLake platform, and we can have 2,000 people connecting at the same time without any issues.
We’ve also seen a huge improvement in the speed of backups. What used to take 24 hours to backup now takes one to two hours. And when we need to install a new virtual server, it’s easier and faster.
With this new infrastructure, we’ve not only reduced the size of our data center, we also have the peace of mind that the HPE GreenLake Management Services team manages our data center. The combined effect of the new equipment and having experts that manage it is a huge advantage for our IT teams. We now have more time to concentrate on other tasks because my teams no longer have to worry about things like firmware upgrades across multiple data centers, for example. We have the latest software to manage all those servers, the latest in VMware, and the latest in Veeam data protection software to enable secure backups and fast, reliable data recovery.
Moving to the HPE GreenLake platform has simplified the daily processes in the data center, which means my small teams are a lot more effective. People think working in IT is just staring at a computer, but in a hospital—especially when everyone in IT wears many hats—you’re running around all day supporting many different types of activities. Our upgrade has resulted in my team being much happier, now that they have the tools to do their work faster and to support our clinician colleagues.
It’s also easier for them to help each other. With a centralized dashboard and a simpler, user-friendly interface, we have more visibility across all of our data centers. Team members can help with troubleshooting at another hospital because they have standardized on the same platform.
I can plan costs and budget better now, too. When buying storage the traditional way, I couldn’t buy for my immediate storage needs and had to contend with heavy upfront costs. Now if I need more storage, I just tell HPE, pay a little bit more every month, and it’s done—without having to over expand. I get what I need, when I need it, and I don’t have to concern myself with the add-on costs of licensing, support, and maintenance.
I’m almost at the point of shutting down our legacy servers, which will increase our available space even more. And with that, I’m looking forward to seeing how it will also translate to reduced power consumption.
A Simplified, More Standardized Operation
Before, we had a lot of different places to manage the various servers, environments, and equipment from several brands. Streamlining and standardizing our infrastructure made it easier for us to manage, create, and verify backups. We also have more time for training non-technical staff and keeping up to date with security concerns, which is critical to prevent cyberattacks.
Every IT manager wants to reduce the size of their data center. When you don’t have a large team and it feels like you’re losing control, it can be scary. HPE removed that burden for Dorado Health, making the data center situation much more manageable. Adopting the HPE GreenLake platform gives me more time to invest in different solutions, and it gives our IT teams space to become part of process changes at the hospital.