Healthcare Provider leverages All-Flash to Power VDI and Improve Patient Care

Storage Switzerland recently sat down with the IT team at one of the largest healthcare providers in the southern United States. This provider chose EMC’s XtremIO to power their VDI deployments. In healthcare the success or failure of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) requires more than managing login storms, it is judged throughout the day by a strict “time to chart” expectation. “Time to chart” is the amount of time that the nurse or doctor has to wait for their VDI instance of the electronic medical records (EMR) platform to pull up the patient’s treatment information.

By selecting XtremIO they were able to reduce their “time to chart” from 45 seconds to 3 seconds. This reduction in wait-time can save a doctor visiting 40 patients per day over 80 minutes. You could further extrapolate that times “X” number of doctors. For a nurse, the time savings is even more significant since they’ll visit many more patients multiple times throughout the day.

The reduction in time to chart allows the doctors and nurses to spend more time with their patients and to fully leverage the EMR platform to make sure the patient is receiving the most effective and safest care possible. For example, EMR solutions can cross-reference patient history with prescribed medicines as well as interaction between those medicines to make sure the combination does not create a negative reaction in the patient. But this analysis requires a significant amount of storage I/O performance, which the provider counts on XtremIO to deliver.

Prior to XtremIO, doctors and nurses found the VDI implementation frustrating, having to wait 45 seconds for patient data to appear, and resisted its use. They would often manually administer care and then try to update everything when they finished their rounds. This didn’t provide them with the latest information and kept them from fully leveraging the patient care software. Medicine cross-referencing is best done in real-time, waiting until the end of a shift for a problem to be identified may be too late.

VDI Architecture Overview

This provider has an extensive VDI architecture that spans over 3,000 endpoints and can support over 1,600 concurrent connections hosted on Cisco UCS blade servers. This is all supported via a single 10TB X-Brick that is replicated using VMware to another 10TB X-Brick in their DR site. They leverage LG Zero desktops and iPads with VDI client software for mobile workers. Rapid response time is not the only gain for the provider. Thanks to XtremIO’s built-in inline, all the time data efficiency technology, they have experienced a significant cost savings in capacity consumption and currently is seeing a 10:1 data reduction ratio.

A Win For IT

Doctors, nurses, and patients weren’t the only winners thanks to the XtremIO selection. The all-flash storage system has also allowed the provider’s IT team to do a better job of servicing application development teams. A big challenge facing the team was the time it took to recompose the master image, something that happened frequently thanks to the 40 applications that the master image houses. Before XtremIO a recompose operation could take as much at 16 hours to complete. Now with XtremIO, it takes 30 seconds. This allows the infrastructure teams to push new updates out to application development teams on a much more regular basis, making sure that they are armed with the latest applications and data.

Storage Switzerland found that reliability of the system has also been a big win for the provider. If the VDI environment is down, so are all the users; they literally can’t get anything done. Therefore, the supporting infrastructure simply can not fail. Thus far the XtremIO system has provided 100% uptime during operational windows. The result has been a big reduction in support calls from the user community. The 60% decrease in calls allows IT to focus on continuously improving their services instead of handling mundane support calls.

Another advantage that XtremIO provides is the ability to refresh desktops faster. In the past they were hesitant to destroy desktops because of the time it would take to re-instantiate them. This, of course, consumed both server and storage resources. Now thanks to XtremIO, the environment can be much more dynamic since a new desktop can be instantiated in just a few seconds.

The Future

Storage Switzerland asked the provider what they plan to do next, since the initial phase of the project had gone so well. The provider is a rapidly growing healthcare organization and the IT team plans on keeping pace. They are set to add a third data center and a third X-Brick so that they can support additional users and provide additional resiliency from a disaster. Thanks to XtremIO, IT can now think big. For example they are considering moving to become more of a service provider, where they host other organization’s electronic medical records and VDI implementations.


VDI projects are some of the most challenging and demanding infrastructure projects today; especially on the storage system. IT must meet/or beat user expectations of dedicated bare metal desktop performance, while replacing it with a shared virtual instance. This is particularly challenging for healthcare organizations because if a doctor or nurse is waiting on IT infrastructure to do their job that also means that a patient is waiting, one that might need critical care. In other words, healthcare organization IT staffs have to meet the expectations of two sets of constituents; the medical staff that use the system and the patients that are waiting on their care.

By selecting EMC’s XtremIO, this provider has ample storage horsepower to meet the needs of all involved. As a direct result of using XtremIO they have seen an increase in the adoption of their EMR system and have been able to reduce the cost of delivering those IT services.

George Crump is the Chief Marketing Officer at VergeIO, the leader in Ultraconverged Infrastructure. Prior to VergeIO he was Chief Product Strategist at StorONE. Before assuming roles with innovative technology vendors, George spent almost 14 years as the founder and lead analyst at Storage Switzerland. In his spare time, he continues to write blogs on Storage Switzerland to educate IT professionals on all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought-after public speaker. With over 30 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS, SAN, Virtualization, Cloud, and Enterprise Flash. Before 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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