Data Center Readiness: The Basement Office

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By: Jeremy Gilbertson

 

Healthcare data center requirements have quickly grown from low density IT environments to high-density, high resiliency environments. The main problem, in most cases, is that many hospitals are still dealing with the same compromised room on campus that they’ve had since before the term “data center” was coined. These rooms are usually in the basement and not conducive to support the IT loads and critical cooling requirements driven by the converged infrastructure of healthcare IT.

In rare cases, hospitals are beginning to involve the data center team in strategic planning initiatives, and some have even implemented steering committees for capacity planning. Sadly, the majority experience a lack of alignment between strategic IT planning, facilities, real estate and the executive team. Lack of alignment in strategy can cause major issues in data center reliability and increase costs for capital projects and maintenance. The data center still doesn’t seem to have a leather chair at the executive conference table.

Some of the reasons that we’ve heard:

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EMR Impacting Data Center Footprint

The strategy change that can have the most impact to data center footprint (besides high-performance computing and research) is the decision to change EMR vendors. While the EMR software industry has matured offering hosting solutions and Software-As-A-Service (SAAS) models, many of the new installations still involve an “on-prem” solution with a significant amount of servers and supporting infrastructure. Even SAAS solutions require an evaluation of the existing network infrastructure to make sure the IT organization can meet internal and external SLAs.

Designing a flexible, modular data center facility or outsourcing to a colocation company can accommodate some shifts in IT strategy, however many healthcare organizations are still dealing with that old compromised room in the basement of the hospital, or they can’t afford to financially support the higher costs for increased flexibility and modularity. Either way, the old data center is rarely consulted during new IT strategic planning.

A Common Scenario:

  • EMR vendor presents a solid case (consolidated infrastructure, IT OpEx savings, etc.) for migrating to their platform.
  • The new solution is based upon high density blade servers (15kW – 20kW per rack).
  • The existing design load per rack is 5kW.
  • The raised floor space and overall capacity in the system could support the blade servers.
  • BUT the existing cooling system cannot support the high-density environment.
  • Any savings realized by changing EMR vendors is possibly negated by a project to upgrade the electrical distribution and install High Density Cooling and Containment.

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At EDI, we always highly recommend a data center readiness check to provide a baseline for any new potential high impact deployments. This proactive effort looks into all aspects of the data center facility including the network, servers, storage, power, cooling, space, redundancy and DRBCP. The output of the study is to determine the constraints, risks and total cost of implementation for the project, which drives the strategic decision making process.

  • Will the network handle the bandwidth requirements of the new EMR?
  • Is network redundancy and reliability robust enough to support DR?
  • What are the specifications and IT loads for the new equipment?
  • Are there equipment specific power requirements?
  • How will the power and cooling be provided?
  • What are the DR expectations? What level of reliability is required?

Large, high potential impact deployments, like a change in EMR vendors, can affect healthcare data centers and the services provided by the IT organization to its clients. EDI, Ltd.’s team of experts can lead a proven process in strategic planning and provide solid technical and financial information to support IT decision-making. The data center needs to be elevated to the executive conference table. Let our team help make sure your existing facility can support your business goals and IT initiatives.