Own Your Edge: Keys to Keeping Pace with an Ever-Expanding Distributed Network

Mitzi L. Amon •

The third in a series of posts that explores the vital signs of a healthcare system’s digital and physical infrastructure, this blog looks at growth at the healthcare edge and lays out the key considerations for ensuring your infrastructure has an agile, scalable skeletal system that can accommodate changes in healthcare delivery models and the exponential growth of healthcare data.

Growing pains aren’t unique to people. Organizations of all types experience them as they attempt to stretch already strained resources to handle increased bandwidth demands. Healthcare may be one of the most impacted industries with the influx of patient-generated health data and the growth of remote outpatient sites.

According to an IDC report, The Digitization of the World From Edge to Core, healthcare data is projected to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36% through 2025. That’s enough data to fill 12 quadrillion miles worth notebook paper—laid end to end, they would circle the earth 485 billion times! Healthcare organizations are already struggling with how to store, manage, analyze, and secure the immense influx of information from established and ever-emerging technologies including EHR, digital imaging, IoMT, artificial intelligence, telemedicine, and wearables. As the volume continues to grow exponentially, they need a healthy infrastructure that can scale with it.

Even as healthcare technologies churn out data points at lightning speed, they are changing service delivery models, fueling the growth of telemedicine and the development of portable IoT healthcare equipment. These innovations drive down costs and improve the patient-experience, enabling quality healthcare services to be delivered in remote and rural locations and to be brought to the doorsteps of a less-mobile, aging population—as long as healthcare IT organizations find ways to keep up.

While today’s healthcare organizations cannot afford to overprovision, or to buy the capacity now that they know they will need to meet future demand, they do need ways to add that capacity quickly as needed. Like the human body’s skeletal system, their infrastructure must provide scalable, flexible, around-the-clock support and the highest level of protection as data and equipment are added.

Keys to building scalability and agility into your infrastructure:

  • Future proof your strategy with modular products that can support anticipated growth
    Modular products give organizations the flexibility to grow as they go, reducing upfront costs and eliminating overprovisioning. Many modular products are available today, including:

     

    • Modular UPS. A modular UPS is scalable after deployment, allowing IT managers to increase or decrease power capacity while the UPS is in operation. “Bricks” of power and battery modules can be added or removed according to output power requirements. In this whitepaper, Modular single-phase UPSs in applications requiring maximum availability, we look at how such products not only support flexibility and scalability needed for edge applications, but also improve energy efficiency, serviceability, and availability at the same time.
    • High density modular cooling. As power demands increase, so do cooling requirements. Several solutions exist that allow you to add cooling capacity as needed while maintaining energy efficiency goals. These cooling solutions for high heat density systems are available in open or closed architecture and pumped refrigerant-based or water-based technology. By using optional pre-charged flexible piping with threaded quick connect fittings, they allow for expansion without interruption of cooling operations. Some solutions also offer easily-installed rack fan units to provide airflow and support energy-efficient design. 
    • Alternative thermal solutions. Space for cooling can be just as big a concern as capacity when healthcare organizations need ways to manage heat in small spaces, such as network closets and edge applications. Alternative thermal solutions, such as the Vertiv™ VRC rack cooling system, fit easily into racks in these environments and makes cooling possible in places where traditional equipment simply won’t fit. The economical VRC can be installed in less than 30 minutes and configured to meet the space restrictions of most edge sites. It offers the convenience of a plug and play solution with three heat rejection options, energy-efficient features, and scalable capacity, allowing IT managers to quickly add cooling when and where it’s needed.
    • Modular rack PDUs. Many rPDUs offer a future-proof design that can help you keep up with power distribution needs as you add equipment. Choosing intelligent systems that easily integrate with your data center infrastructure management system enable you to stay on top of power usage and adapt to changing business needs as you grow.

 

  • Deploy preconfigured infrastructure solutions to add capacity fast
    As healthcare organizations look for ways to keep up with demand and push storage and computing closer to users and devices, preconfigured infrastructure solutions are becoming a growing trend. By offering integrated power, cooling, and monitoring capabilities in a plug-in-play package, they streamline deployment, making it quick and easy to move assets where they are needed and get up and running in a matter of weeks.

     

    • Micro data centers. Prefabricated micro data centers can be deployed inside a building or be the building themselves, making it possible to add additional capacity quickly while simplifying the management of decentralized infrastructure.
    • Smart cabinets. Solutions such as the Vertiv SmartCabinetTM are typically placed in an on-premise data center and are ideal for quickly adding power, cooling, and security to support IT infrastructure at remote healthcare sites. The cabinets can also be used in colocation sites. This case study shows how Vertiv recently helped a major healthcare system with more than 350 points of access to shut down two on-premise data centers and relocate its IT infrastructure to a colocation facility in just 12 months. By using 155 of the smart cabinets, coupled with a detailed deployment plan, the healthcare company saved an estimated eight hours of work per cabinet, allowing the colocation transition project to be completed on time and within budget.

 

  • Set the stage for managing your current and future assets
    As healthcare organizations build their skeletal system and deploy solutions to support growth at the edge—whether they choose modular products, new remote data centers, or moving some assets into a colocation—ensuring connectivity of all solutions and the ability to view and manage IT from a central location will be paramount. Connectivity is key even for those assets located inside the main hospital, including imaging equipment and IT in nursing stations. It enables the visibility that helps organizations stay on top of security and efficiency goals even as their networks become larger and more distributed.

     

    Considering the need for connectivity and visibility with each new asset you deploy, along with how those assets will be organized and protected within the space constraints of network closets, smart cabinets, or micro data centers, will help set the stage for effective monitoring and management of the distributed IT environment, a topic we will explore more deeply in our next post in this series. Being able to remotely see and access your assets, wherever they are located, not only supports more effective management of your current IT environment, it also gives you the ability to know where devices reside, how power is being used, and where space is available, simplifying expansion planning.

 

To learn more about supporting growth at the healthcare edge, contact Vertiv or visit us at Vertiv.com/healthcare to discover how our solutions are helping more than 80% of U.S. healthcare systems achieve continuity for life.

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