Holy COW! New Hampshire med center turns to Pivot3 vSTAC for VDI

Southern New Hampshire Medical Center put its server-storage architecture out to pasture when it added Pivot3 vSTAC hyper-convergence to power its computers on wheels, or COWs.

IT pro Scot Tymowicz said he feels pride when he watches doctors at his Southern New Hampshire Health System medical center work.

Tymowicz, desktop configuration engineer at the medical center, helps maintain the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that powers more than 80 mobile workstations that doctors use to treat patients. Each workstation includes a desktop computer, batteries, bar code reader and printer.

"We call them computers on wheels, or COWS," Tymowicz said. "Doctors badge in with a single sign-on to their computer, they start to work with patients, take vitals, prescribe medication and do other things. They wheel the cart out, and bring it with them when they go into the next patient's room. It's amazing to watch the medical staff take these wireless units from the nurses' station to the patients' room, and their work follows them seamlessly from terminal to terminal.

"The best part of the process is watching a doctor sit down at a nursing station, badge onto a VDI session, start to open medical forms, order a prescription and then, if he's called into a patient's room, he can badge into the same workstation in the patient's room and his work follows him," Tymowicz said. "It's a different environment than you find in a corporate world, where people sit in a chair for eight hours."

Pivot3 vSTAC VDI hyper-converged appliances provide the storage and compute for the COWS. The medical center turned to the Pivot3 hyper-converged infrastructure to replace traditional server-storage architecture six years ago.

Southern New Hampshire Health System medical center (SNHMC) is a 180-plus bed acute care facility located in Nashua, N.H., with offices and rehabilitation clinics in the region.

SNHMC was an early Pivot3 customer, starting with six vSTAC appliances for VDI running VMware Horizon View for 50 employees. Each Pivot3 vSTAC appliance includes 12 TB of storage.

Tymowicz said SNHMC had VDI when he arrived in early 2015, but lacked high availability for VDI between its two data centers. The VDI appliances started running low on capacity around mid-2016, and Tymowicz purchased two more Pivot3 appliances. One will go in each data center as SNHMC expands its VDI to support 2,500 employees. In 2017, Tymowicz said he plans to add all-flash appliances. SNHMC's current Pivot3 vSTAC appliances are HDD-only.

"We get good performance now, but I imagine it will be night and day if we cut over to SSDs," he said. "It will be so much faster."

Tymowicz said he expects the flash upgrade will be seamless with Pivot3 vSTAC appliances in both data centers.

Before the speed bump arrives, the medical center is concentrating on availability as a disaster recovery option.

"Now that I can move between data centers without interrupting VDI users, I'll probably schedule a maintenance window, kick them over to Data Center 1, then bring down Data Center 2, rebuild it with new SSD systems, test those and bring them back," he said. "Once I bring them back, I'll take three appliances I took out of Data Center 2 and add them to Data Center 1. If we put six appliances together instead of three, we'll get a lot more performance, higher IOPS, reads and writes."

Tymowicz said he was new to hyper-convergence when he joined SNHMC, but came to appreciate how easy it makes presenting storage for virtual machines. In SNHMC's case, the VMs come from VMware ESX hypervisors.

"In the past, you'd get a blade or a server, then you had to create an ESX profile, install ESX, then present the storage," he said. "You had all these steps where you had to spend weeks, if not months, to add new storage and blades. Most organizations have a dedicated ESX guy. Hyper-converged [infrastructure] simplifies a lot of it. Pivot3 brings in a brand-new box, they plug it in, and once you have the management software installed, then you literally integrate the new appliance into the existing cluster. It does everything else for you. It does the ESX layer and the storage layer, and helps you re-create all your LUNs and data storage."

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