UK Healthcare Provider Brings Medical Imaging Into Sharper Focus With Nutanix
Aspen Healthcare Future-Proofs Its’ Sectra Medical Imaging Solution Using Nutanix Cloud Platform, AHV Hypervisor and Nutanix Files.
To deliver the best possible patient outcomes, healthcare professionals around the world are increasingly reliant on fast access to X-rays, MRI scans, mammographs and other diagnostic imaging tools. So, with the managed platform behind its Sectra Picture Archiving System (PACS) reaching end of life, Aspen Healthcare was keen to find a more scalable, reliable and easy to manage replacement to further develop this, and other, potentially life-enhancing technologies.
- Rapid scalability and enhanced agility from an on-premises solution
- Greater flexibility from full virtualisation of Sectra system using Nutanix AHV Hypervisor
- Enhanced resilience by significantly reducing single points of failure
- Reduced operational overheads with less complexity and single management interface requiring no specialist skills
- Nutanix Cloud Platform
- Prism management plane
- Nutanix AHV hypervisor
- Nutanix Files
- Veeam backup and disaster recovery
- Sectra PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications System)
- Sectra RIS (Radiology Information System)
- Patient Administration System
Nutanix has enabled us to move our medical imaging up a gear. To not only rapidly scale capacity to meet demand, but give front-line professionals fast and reliable access to high resolution medical images where they’re needed, when they’re needed, all of the time.Lee Shaw, Head of Infrastructure, Aspen Healthcare
As an early adopter, Aspen Healthcare was acutely aware of the benefits of its’ Sectra PACS and RIS medical imaging system, empowering staff to make better diagnoses, deliver more effective treatments and improve patient outcomes. The legacy infrastructure supporting that software, however, was starting to show its age, limiting the ability to both expand capacity and embrace the latest technological advances. As Lee Shaw, Head of Infrastructure at Aspen Healthcare, explains:
“We had no concerns when it came to continuing with the Sectra medical imaging software or upgrading it further but, in order to maximise that investment, we needed to completely rethink the supporting infrastructure. It had to become more responsive, quicker to scale, easier to manage and able to support the latest Sectra software, and enable us to grow capacity and adopt other diagnostic tools and technologies moving forward.”
Having ruled out a replacement 3-tier infrastructure, Lee and his team looked first at virtualisation using existing Hyper-V servers. These, however, lacked the required capacity and were far from straightforward to manage. Attention then turned to Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) alternatives leading, ultimately, to the Nutanix Cloud Platform and AHV hypervisor.
“It’s a bit of a cliché,” said Lee, “but Nutanix really did tick all the boxes, particularly the one marked scalability. It was also the simplest to manage, gathering all the information and tools we needed together in one place and it was the most affordable, especially when you factor in the bundled AHV hypervisor which does everything we wanted at no extra cost.”
As Lee is keen also to point out, Aspen Healthcare was the first customer anywhere to virtualise a Sectra medical imaging system using AHV. A leap of faith, he admits, but it all went well and users of the new infrastructure are more than happy with the results.
“Nutanix AHV worked flawlessly and handled the Sectra workloads with ease right from the start,” he commented. “It’s also by far the easiest hypervisor we’ve ever used. So much so that we’ve since moved other Hyper-V workloads to it, again with no compatibility or operational problems of any kind.”
Aspen Healthcare was also an early adopter of Nutanix Files, using this software-defined, scale-out file storage solution to initially store all of its DICOM imaging with plans to also move other shared data to the platform.
Less is more, and better too
Nutanix Cloud Platform was installed across two Aspen Healthcare sites, each configured with protection domain replication for high availability and the use of Veeam for backup and disaster recovery. Running AHV, these replaced previously full equipment racks containing multiple physical servers, SAN and networking equipment, saving on both physical space and power and cooling overheads.
Supporting over 2,500 Sectra users across four locations the newer processors in the Nutanix clusters delivered an immediate performance boost across the board, but it didn’t stop there. There were other benefits, too, primarily as a result of the way storage is optimised by the Nutanix software depending on usage patterns.
“Where it used to take minutes or even longer to retrieve images that had been archived, they can be ready in seconds,” claims Lee. “Moreover, we’ve been able to maintain that level of performance despite growth in demand and the images themselves becoming ever larger and more detailed.”
Always ready and endlessly scalable
Since installation, the Nutanix platform has been fully available with no downtime whatsoever and just a single hardware fault.
“The only issue has been a failed memory DIMM, but that was swapped out while the cluster was working with nobody any the wiser,” said Lee. “Plus, Nutanix us and ordered the replacement part before we were aware there was a problem. Prior to the adoption of NUTANIX, we would have to deal with two vendor support teams just to get the fault logged.”
Lee is similarly keen to stress the simple on-demand scalability of the Nutanix platform which has not only allowed Aspen Healthcare to add extra capacity to meet demand but cope with reorganisations of its clinic network.
“We recently needed to re-jig our disaster recovery setup to replicate data to a different location which, with the old infrastructure, would have involved a lengthy and costly project. With Nutanix it was a simple matter of re-assigning the protection domains then leaving the software to move the data between locations while we got on with other work.”
Since installation of the first pair of Nutanix Cloud clusters, Aspen Healthcare has deployed others across its UK clinics to which it has been busy migrating infrastructure services and other Hyper-V application workloads. Next in line is its Patient Administration System (PAS), an in-house application which recently suffered an outage of several days.
“That outage wouldn’t have occurred had we been hosting PAS on the Nutanix infrastructure,” commented Lee. “But it did provide the impetus to free up the budget to do just that and the project is now well in hand.”
The healthcare provider has also purchased a licence for Nutanix Calm which will be used to manage the lifecycle of PAS and other core applications, and another for Nutanix Flow to bolster protection against cyber-attacks.
Finally, although the healthcare provider has no public cloud assets at present, that may change following a recent tie up with Nuffield Health, which is a large user of Microsoft Azure. Moreover, Lee is confident that the Nutanix hybrid cloud infrastructure will give his team a head start when integrating medical imaging and other workloads seamlessly across the two organisations no matter what the ultimate platform requirements or cloud (public and/or private) they might live on.
A Nutanix Cloud Champion partner, ET Works has over 28 years’ industry experience with offices in the UK, Norway and South Africa and has worked with Aspen Healthcare since 2017 to help design, deploy and support their Nutanix infrastructure.