An interview with Steven Parrish, Chief Information Officer, Mater Health Services


By Fiona Partlow
| min

Background: Mater Health Services comprises a network of hospitals, health centres, a world-class medical research institute, and pathology and pharmacy businesses — all with one aim: to provide exceptional care. By integrating these fields into the delivery of exceptional healthcare services, Mater is committed to the development and maintenance of healthy communities. This goal is supported by Mater Foundation, which links community and philanthropic support to both Mater Health Services and Mater Research. Steven Parrish, CIO at Mater, is responsible for Mater’s IT infrastructure and systems. We recently spoke with Steven about the expansion of Mater’s virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) project, which is being powered by Nutanix. Here is a summary:

Q: What challenges did Mater face with its previous IT infrastructure?

We’ve experienced consistent business growth but found our former storage area network (SAN) and rack-mounted server hardware struggled to keep up. We saw the effect of that on our network of 2,000 virtual desktops, which became increasingly unable to deliver adequate capacity to meet employee workloads. That meant our staff couldn’t use our full range of applications properly.

Q: Why did you upgrade to Nutanix?

As our business expanded, we made the decision to extend our virtual desktop environment to 3,500 endpoints. We needed a simple data centre that wouldn’t require constant upkeep and ultimately selected Nutanix’s web-scale technology because it can scale as we need, runs almost invisibly and provides long-term cost savings.

Q: Can you describe the transition to Nutanix and expansion of your VDI?

Initial setup for Nutanix took about two hours, an hour of which was automation. The platform allows us to expand out virtual desktop infrastructure in a modular fashion without disrupting our existing environment. As we move to the target of 5,000 virtual desktop sessions – which are situated in hospitals, clinics and remote sites as well as on ruggedized devices in the field – we can simply add new nodes which integrate into the existing environment very easily.

Q: What benefits did the technology deliver?

Mater’s employees use about 1,500 healthcare, management and administration applications. These include an oncology system used by nurses in the Mater Cancer Care Centre to document care and treatment during chemotherapy; a patient administration system to process the admission and discharge of patients; and our clinical portal, a summary-based medical record system used to provide a single view of each patient. As you can see, these are critical to our ability to deliver our healthcare services. That means they need to be available at all times, and easily accessible on a wide range of devices in any location. While our old SAN made our applications accessible, it didn’t have the reliability or stability that Nutanix has delivered.

Q: Can you tell us about Mater’s cost savings resulting from the decision?

It’s difficult to quantify just how much money we are saving with Nutanix because the benefits extend far beyond the purchase of hardware. First and foremost, we’re realising periodic and operational savings in support, maintenance and management of our IT infrastructure. SAN not only requires significant expertise, but the complex nature of the technology means a lot of resources need to be dedicated to keeping the lights on. By going down the hyper-converged route, we’ve taken this cost out of the business because the technology works on its own; we rarely intervene with it. That means my team saves hours every week which can be dedicated to focusing on projects that will benefit patients. Secondly, Nutanix has allowed us to significantly reduce our data centre footprint. That’s opened up significant space, and reduces power and cooling requirements.