Why HCI (Nutanix) Truly is a Great Fit for Healthcare Applications


By Dan Cowan
| min

I recently read a blog post from a storage vendor attempting to make the case that HCI (Hyper-converged Infrastructure) is not a good fit for healthcare. They used their strategic partner’s HCI solution, VMware VSAN as the example, but tried to apply their reasoning to all HCI. My first thought was to wonder what Nutanix’s hundreds of happy healthcare customers would think of such an argument. I often meet with customers who make the case to ME on why Nutanix is a great fit for their life-critical applications.

I’ll highlight some of those reasons in this post. And because I’m familiar with the author and his background, I’ll assume that he was writing about the healthcare provider market, and not payors, pharma, or some other sub-market. So, my comments will also be focused on HCI and healthcare providers.


1) Simple and highly-available

Healthcare IT departments love simple infrastructure. They are under constant pressure to reduce operational costs while ensuring availability. Simple infrastructure requires less care-and-feeding and has fewer components that could fail. With HCI, some traditional infrastructure components are removed from the equation. No more proprietary storage array, controllers, or storage-specific connectivity. For those familiar with Fiber Channel, HCI does not require HBA’s, fabric switches, fiber cabling, or SFP’s.

The anti-HCI vendor is part of that complicated 3-tier world: servers, fabric, arrays. HCI takes us back to simple infrastructure. Servers with local drives, connected to an IP network. The hardware is that basic.

This means that the hardware layer has fewer components and will provide higher up-times. This leads to better availability of the applications. Clinicians love that.

This simplicity also means a smaller attack surface. Nutanix takes advantage of a security-first design, and our customers benefit greatly from this as they fend off security threats.

And the management of Nutanix is simple. A single web-based console. No separate consoles for servers, virtualization, fabric, storage, etc. The vendor blog that I mentioned talked about “turning the right knobs”. Take a look at our Prism management console. There’s very little storage configuration available. That’s a good thing!

One example of a customer simplifying their environment with Nutanix is a Southern California health system running a set of applications on 30 RU of Nutanix nodes. The 3-tier infrastructure for those same apps used to take up 6 full racks. And 2 resources manage the infrastructure and apps now, down from 12. That has allowed them to reallocate 10 people to higher-level projects.

2) Handle growth

Healthcare IT departments are being asked to support more users. They need infrastructure that scales easily and linearly. They do not want to run out of capacity or performance on a system (compute or storage) and then have to stand up another full-size system just to support the next small group of users.

This growth in user-count is coming from several places. Hospital merger and acquisition activity isn’t slowing down. The “acquired” users are almost always switched over to the EMR (Electronic Medical Record) of choice, which means that hundreds or even thousands of users need to be accommodated. Also, programs like Epic Community Connect continue to gain traction, allowing health systems to offer their EMR as-a-service to affiliates. More users! And the functionality of EMR’s, both inpatient and ambulatory, and Population Health continues to expand, meaning more users getting access to the system.

Scaling to handle these additional users should be as simple as adding additional nodes (servers) to the cluster. It is, with Nutanix.

Growth requirements also come in the form of increasing technical requirements for key applications. One leading EMR vendor requires 20% more CPU for each major release, and additional web servers as they add HTML to their front-end. This can be handled by adding a few nodes to the Nutanix cluster. And the math is simple. No 5-year forecasting. No need to worry about additional servers overloading a storage array.

3) VDI performance

Because of clinician mobility and the need for quick access to the EMR, VDI is very popular in healthcare. But, we continue to see healthcare VDI projects stall or fail because of performance problems, usually caused by storage issues. With Nutanix, VDI infrastructure can’t be any easier. Size the system at xx/users per node, and deploy. Then, easily expand if you’d like. Because the storage comes with each node, there’s no impact to external systems. Our customers are proud of the performance improvements they experience after moving from 3-tier to Nutanix. They send us the Epic System Pulse graphs that quantify it! (see below)

So, I’d ask you to speak with our healthcare customers. They are in your city, at the conferences you attend, and if you’d like help connecting with them, just let us know. They can tell you about the economic, operational, availability, and other benefits of running Nutanix for their most critical applications. It really is better if you hear it from them, and not a vendor!

(if you’re interested in reading the blog I’ve been referring to, here’s the link:

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