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Case Study on OpenStack Cloud in Health Care

David Fishman - March 06, 2013

OpenStack Cloud and Healthcare

Computing for health care and life sciences is rapidly adapting to opportunities created by new technologies for scalable data storage, elastic compute service resources, and data analytics. Given the powerful forces changing the economics of the overall health care marketplace, technologies that can address security and compliance at reduced cost are getting a lot of attention.

Multiscale Health Networks, a joint venture between CODONiS and Providence Health & Services, is a specialty service provider  targeting the unique needs of life sciences and health care with computing solutions for virtualization, high performance computing, application development and disaster recovery.

Providence Health & Services is $12 billion multi-regional hospital and care delivery network in 5 western states (US), with 65,000 employees. It is also also a typical customer of MultiScale, working to achieve next-generation knowledge-based healthcare.

To build a standards-compliant, high-reliability platform for health care and life sciences computing, MultiScale set out to find cloud technology suited to optimized, high-availability data storage and computing for clinical and research customers.

After evaluating multiple commercial and open-source cloud and virtualization options, MultiScale turned to OpenStack. Avoiding vendor lock-in was a key requirement behind the choice, along  with support for on-premise and remote datacenter deployments. In addition, the flexibility of open source simplified development of specialized compliance, security, privacy and audit approaches.

Business Requirements

Multiscale’s healthcare customers are faced with growing urgency to drive compute costs down. Rapid advances in digitization of health care information have contributed to an explosion of data storage capacity. Starting with optimization of storage infrastructure was an obvious target.

Historically, industry-specific requirements for HIPAA compliance and diverse range of data retention policies led one Multiscale customer, a large regional healthcare system, to select enterprise-grade block and file storage systems – much like many of its clinical peers. Engineered for hardware-based redundancy, these systems often fail to benefit from rapid reductions in the costs of raw storage capacity. Despite the fact that block and file storage systems were introduced to meet a narrow range of use cases, procurement patterns often led to purchase of such enterprise systems with capabilities and costs far in excess of requirements. Finally, these “storage silos” contributed to a longer application change and deployment cycle in the customer’s IT, creating a substantial backlog.

In turning to MultiScale for a more cost-effective and flexible infrastructure, the customer set its focus on key use cases, including object storage for archiving, medical imaging, and patient record maintenance–various forms of data at rest.

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