Vidant Health Leverages Flash to think differently about Healthcare Data Management

Most first time all-flash array buyers make the leap to solid state performance because they have hit a performance wall. While Vidant Health was certainly ready for a performance upgrade, late last year their immediate concern was capacity and security. When an upgrade to their Epic EMR application caused their capacity needs to spike unexpectedly, it became obvious that the capacity of their current storage system was not going to make it until their scheduled storage refresh. To make matters worse, the organization had to address data security and implement a data encryption strategy right away.

Performance Problems Too

In addition to the pressing demands to meet growing capacity and security needs, the organization needed to address a performance problem when producing end of the month reports and also the time required creating a copy of their EMR environment for development and support purposes. The end of month report took 45 hours to create, and the creation of the support copy of the environment took 14 hours.

No Status Quo

Instead of advancing their scheduled plans to upgrade to a planned new storage system, IT Manager James Eason began to wonder if they could think differently about their approach to storage and use the opportunity to address multiple problems. Eason had some experience with how flash could help with performance, as he had previously selected a tray of flash to cut the support copy process in half, to 7 hours.

This experience motivated him to look at an XtremIO all-flash array solution from EMC. It provided him with a 10TB solution that, with deduplication and compression, more than met his capacity demands. The system also had native encryption, at no additional charge, eliminating an expensive software component of his scheduled storage refresh. Now that Eason knew he could meet his capacity and security pressure points, he turned his attention to what the performance possibilities could be.

The initial test of performance was done using a test suite from Epic. The test began at 22K IOPS with 1 millisecond of latency. They cranked the test up to 100k IOPS and the system sustained that low latency for over 30 minutes. Finally they moved the testing needle one more time to 150k IOPS and once again latency remained consistent at 1 millisecond. XtremIO is known for consistent latency, and once again it proved itself under the most brutal of conditions.

XtremIO Configuration

With these tests out of the way, Vidant selected two 10TB XtremIO bricks per data center. They have had the systems in place since October 2014 with no interruption of service. The EMC team and their partner Arrow expertly helped Eason’s team make the migration from the original storage system to the new all-flash array. In all, compared to the system they were scheduled to purchase, which was a hybrid system, the XtremIO saved them over one million dollars.

Real World Results

In the real world, Eason was able to address the organization’s nagging report and copy data challenges. The end of month report was reduced from 45 hours to 45 minutes. This report is used to forecast the next month’s needs for personal and logistical resources. Now that the information can be delivered faster, they can make these scheduling decisions sooner than was possible in the past. In fact, Eason is now once again thinking differently, he sees value in the capability of running this report more frequently so adjustments to scheduling and resource allocation can be done in more of a real-time fashion.

For the creation of the support copy of the Epic environment, Eason found that this data could now be snapshotted and copied in less than an hour, down from seven hours. Remember, in this situation XtremIO was being compared to a flash storage shelf in their original storage system. Even in a flash vs. flash comparison XtremIO delivered a significant performance improvement. Eason and his team had hands-on proof that not all flash is created equal.

Migration Continues

With the successful production implementation of Epic on XtremIO, Vidant has begun to move PeopleSoft HR and their financial modeling application, as well as MS-SQL applications to the new platform. Finally, they have also moved their VMware environment to the XtremIO storage systems. Even with the addition of these very random I/O workloads performance and latency have remained consistent.

Copy Data Management and Performance

Epic environments tend to need a lot of copies for a variety of reasons beyond just the support environment. The Vidant environment maintained a total of 23 copies, but thanks to XtremIO’s space efficient snapshot technology the impact of those copies is reduced significantly. They can now make those copies instantly and with no impact on capacity.

This instant snapshot capability has made a significant impact on their test environment. Now when a test begins, Eason and his team can provide a refreshed copy of production data within just a few seconds. This allows them to be more aggressive with testing while still having the safety of not impacting production.

Epic Support

When Eason’s team started on this journey, XtremIO was not a fully supported storage solution. Thanks to the implementation at Vidant and many other healthcare facilities, XtremIO has achieved a high level of support with Epic. Today XtremIO has over 50 Epic customers.

The Impact is Thinking Differently About Healthcare IT

As a result of selecting XtremIO, the IT team has grown its value and credibility within the organization. Now Eason and his team are faced with an unusual challenge, the high performance, consistent low latency storage system has empowered them to think differently.

The real win for Eason and his team is that, thanks to XtremIO, they are out of firefighting mode. No longer are they constantly fighting with their storage system, trying to squeeze just a little more performance or capacity out of it. Vidant’s IT team has been able to hang up the fire helmets and resume their role as IT professionals.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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