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Categories: Azure DELL EMC HPE Microsoft VMware VxRack

@Medicity, a subsidiary of Aetna with offices in Salt Lake City and Alpharetta, Ga., is a software-as-a-service ( #SaaS) provider for hospitals and healthcare information exchanges (HIEs). Its network serves more than 1,000 hospitals, 250,000 end users, and 20 regional and statewide HIEs. Through Medicity’s private cloud, they have exchanged more than 2.4 billion clinical transactions. Dennany said his data centers have 3 PB of data to support customers “We store and analyze very large amounts of clinical data over time,” he said. “We’re transforming that data into a strategic asset that supports health insurance quality initiatives.” Unlike more common blade-based HCI appliances, such as Dell EMC VxRail and those from Nutanix, VxRack Flex includes upo 24 nodes in a single rack and is built specifically for petabyte-scale implementations. VxRack Flex runs on PowerEdge servers, using ScaleIO software-defined block storage and VMware virtualization. Medicity installed 48 nodes of VxRack Flex — 24 each in its Salt Lake City and Denver data centers — with plans for another 24-node rack this year. The initial installation provided 1.7 TB of RAM and close to 1 PB of solid-state drives. “What we’re really seeking is high-performance I/O for large amounts of data,” Dennany said. Moving from arrays to HCI Before switching to rack-scale HCI, Medicity used a traditional setup of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) blade servers and Dell Compellent storage arrays. Dennany said, in late 2016, he started searching for “our next-generation data center design.” He explored setting up a large Kubernetes scale-out farm to support a project built around Google’s Site Reliability Engineering concept. But Medicity instead picked the VxRack Flex because of its combination of power and storage management, Dennany said. “The management of a Kubernetes farm is challenging,” he said. “The VxRack Flex system fit right in with our strategy and needs around raw I/O performance requirements, encryption of data at rest and our move toward a software-defined data center.” Dennany said for Medicity to fill out its SaaS requirements, the company had to build its own cloud. It writes many of the applications it uses, using Microsoft SQL Server as the underlying database and Tableau software for analytics. “Traditional clouds, such as AWS or Azure, do not offer the raw performance that we require,” he said. “So, we’re really big fans of the ScaleIO performance. Through testing, we found we’re not able to match that performance through public clouds.” Dell EMC will juice VxRack Flex performance more by making it available on its latest 14th-generation PowerEdge server. Those systems will be available in April. Those new models will pack more flash and memory into each node, increasing IOPS, bandwidth and virtual machine support. Dennany said he looks forward to the upgrade, as he prepares to expand beyond his two racks. “This is a project between now and probably mid-2020, and we will continue to grow onto VxRack Flex,” he said. “We’re excited about the performance numbers they’re talking about, like more IOPS and bandwidth. These are things we are hungry for.” Database problems dealt with While building out the VxRack Flex implementation, Medicity is migrating data off its Compellent storage to the HCI system using Always On in SQL Server to mirror databases and VMware VMotion to move applications. “We’re prioritizing based on client size and performance,” Dennany said. “We target migrations where needed from either a capacity or performance perspective.”

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