Impact Insights

Trends in Data Centers

Down the hall, in the back corner of the basement, over a dune of dust bunnies, behind all the old beds and IV carts is a cold, lonely room, full of blinking lights and the whir of fans – the hospital’s data center. This forgotten room in the bowels of the hospital is starting to get some recognition. With the deployment of electronic medical records and other healthcare IT systems, the lights are staring on shine on the healthcare data center.  The healthcare executive team is starting to realize that the modern hospital runs on its data center and the data center is an important part of the organization’s overall success. The proverbial sun is shining on the basement. With this renewed interest, comes several new trends in data centers.

Second Data Centers                                                                                                                              

A significant trend in healthcare is the need for second data centers. Large medical record systems and radiology imaging systems require fail-over systems that are constantly updated and synchronized. Unfortunately, many hospitals have their primary and fail over system in the same data center. While this protects from a hardware failure, it does not protect the application from data center failures like fires, power outages, or cooling failures. IT leadership is starting to consider having multiple data centers to house the fail over systems so services will continue in the case of losing the primary data center. The traditional ‘cold’ site option, where the servers are built and your data restored when a disaster strikes, take several days to recover. This is too long for the modern hospital to go without their medical record system.

Data Center Colocation

As part of the second data center trend, many are realizing the economic benefits of colocation services. Colocation services are where you lease space in a large, shared data center. The advantage is that costs of redundant electrical and cooling systems are shared across multiple clients. With new small data centers costing about $12 million to build, leasing space at around $500,000 a year is very attractive. Hector Diaz, Denver Chapter president of AFCOM, the data center professional organization, says “The data center of the future is the one you don’t own.” Some hospitals are even realizing that colocation makes sense for their primary data center, too.

Virtualization and Cloud Services

Virtualization of data centers is a trend that has been going on for years, with most organizations having a good amount of applications hosted on virtual servers. What is new is the development of “Cloud” services. Many IT administrators consider virtualization the same as cloud, but cloud services takes this one step further. As Jack Story of the AFCOM Data Center Institute (DCI) Board of Directors and HP Distinguished Technologist says, cloud services are “the abstraction of infrastructure.” Meaning, your application runs from anywhere on the internet and can be moved easily between server farms.  Amazon Web Services, where you rent a server instance that is somewhere in Amazon’s cloud, is a good example of this service. Cloud services are ideal for smaller applications such as department schedulers, reporting/analytics systems, and accounting systems – applications that don’t have heavy computing needs or strict security concerns.

Cloud Disaster Recovery

A related service is Cloud Disaster Recovery. Here, your virtual applications still run in your primary data center, but the virtual instance of your server and its data is replicated to the storage network of a cloud provider on a regular basis. Then, when you declare a disaster, the cloud virtual server is powered on and your application is provided from the remote cloud site.  Because the server is replicated between your SAN and theirs, the data is only minutes old and can be recovered in under an hour.

If you’re ready to take the adventure down to the far corners of your basement and update your data center, contact Rob Faix to add an experienced guide to your team.