The following guest case study is written by By Jeff Bills, VP of Information Technology at Solutions Healthcare Management
Solutions Healthcare provides IT operations for medical offices and clinics. Our firm now serves 600 physicians across eight states with services including billing, collections, medical records management, digital imaging, VDI, and VOIP. As a service business, we compete by delivering services that continuously exceed our customers’ expectations while remaining competitive on price, a goal we can achieve only by staying on the forefront of information technologies.
Some years ago, we integrated server and storage virtualization technologies, both of which have proven to enhance service delivery and efficiency. This case study discusses our journey to the next level of virtualization: a virtualized infrastructure. A virtualized infrastructure means the virtualization of the network interconnects that tie together all of the data center components – servers, networks, and storage. The need for this became clear as we embarked on a data center capacity expansion to accommodate our 20% annual growth. With the accelerating transition to electronic medical records, our need for bandwidth is growing 30% per year, and storage is growing a whopping 60% per year. We needed an infrastructure that could expand on demand. Furthermore, we saw the need to increase IT agility. Our competitive advantage is responsiveness. Delivering a high degree of agility in a complex data center imposes unique challenges on the infrastructure. A final objective was to achieve predictable costs. When our big-name server vendor hit us with an unexpected price increase, it was clear that a vendor-neutral open source platform was needed.
We looked at multiple infrastructure options, including Ethernet-based solutions. Ultimately we selected Xsigo Systems’ virtualized infrastructure, partly because of the connectivity fabric they use. The fabric is a key consideration because it is the heart of the infrastructure – it ties together all of the servers, networks and storage. Xsigo’s fabric technology, called InfiniBand, is widely used in some of the world’s foremost supercomputers and resource clusters and has a proven track record in its performance and reliability. After months of planning and consideration, the ultimate deployment included two Xsigo VP560 I/O Directors, Supermicro servers (1U-high), Compellent storage, VMware ESX software, Arista 10GE switches, and Palo Alto Networks firewalls. Implementation went smoothly. We were already well-experienced with the concepts of virtualization, so the transition from a traditional infrastructure to a virtual one presented no conceptual leaps. In fact, a virtual infrastructure is analogous to server virtualization in many ways. In both cases you are dividing up one physical resource into many virtual ones. And in both cases, the virtual resource actually “looks” familiar. With server virtualization, that resource is a “virtual machine” that looks just like a server. With virtual infrastructure, the resource is a “virtual NIC,” or “virtual HBA.” Those, too, appear to the server as plain old physical connections.
The benefits achieved are analogous as well. Server virtualization let us consolidate and make better use of servers. Infrastructure virtualization let us eliminate about 70% of our network components, and gain a much higher degree of flexibility. We can now define – in software – what servers are connected to which networks and which storage.
Specific wins included the following:
• Server cost: Because our new infrastructure is open, we could deploy white box servers instead of a brand name solution, saving cost immediately. We achieved an additional 50% cost savings because we needed only one or two PCI slots per server, thus enabling the use of cost-effective 1U rather than 4U servers.
• Scalability: Setting up a single server used to require 16 new I/O connections (and the switch ports that go with them). Now we can add servers with just two cables. Better yet, we wire the servers once and never touch them again.
• Future Proofing: With traditional infrastructure, you have to estimate what you need and then hope you can cost effectively expand it down the road. We know that it’s impossible to predict every requirement. But whatever the need, it’s critical that we respond quickly and provide great availability. That combination is much easier to achieve with a virtualized infrastructure.
• Service availability and performance: We can now quickly deploy more servers for high availability, and then seamlessly fail over to those devices. This gives us predictable performance by effectively building a virtualized compute center.
With the new infrastructure, we have seen numerous tangible benefits. For example, when a customer suffered a power-surge that caused a complete outage at his site, it essentially closed his 30-person practice. With Xsigo we were able to re-allocate servers within our shop to bring his applications in-house. We got him back up with a dedicated network environment in less than a day. Without Xsigo it would have taken at least a week to acquire all the necessary resources and rebuild the customer’s environment. That’s the very definition of service.
About Xsigo Systems:
Xsigo simplifies data center management by letting you dynamically connect any server to any network and storage. Reduce complexity by eliminating 70% of the cards, cables and switch ports, and get up to 80 Gbps bandwidth to each server for increased application performance. All at 50% less cost than traditional infrastructure.
Xsigo benefits include:
• Dynamically connect servers to networks and storage
• Accelerate applications with up to 40 Gbps per server connection
• Consolidate to a single cable for multiple Ethernet and Fibre Channel links
• Reduce costs by 50% verses legacy infrastructure
For more information, please visit Xsigo here
About Solutions Healthcare:
Solutions Healthcare Management offers an extensive listing of services to help manage and organize your medical practice. As our business continues to grow in its devotion to healthcare management, we also continue to grow through technological and organizational advances.
We create solutions for complex practice management problems with a high degree of experience and technical skill. We understand the dynamics of the medical practice, as well as the need to balance business with quality health care.
Solutions’ services range from practice start-up and restructuring to management of operations, overhead, human resources, compliance, and virtually all other aspects of practice management.
For more information, please visit Solutions Healthcare here