The South Eastern Health & Social Care (SEHSC) Trust in Northern Ireland has replaced its ageing server rooms with two modular data centres, helping improve IT delivery to its increasingly mobile workforce.
The SEHSC Trust employs around 12,000 staff across four hospitals and 120 facilities, serving a community of 345,000 in the districts of Newtownards, Down, North Down and Lisburn.
As part of a wider £232 million building redevelopment project, scheduled to finish in 2016, SEHSC deployed twin HP Performance Optimised Data Centres (PODs) at its Ulster Hospital site.
Speaking at the unveiling of the new data centres, NI Health Minister Edwin Poots said that investment in IT is a vital part of government plans to improve patient care across the region.
“We have our challenges in healthcare and if we are going to deal with those challenges we need to make the best use of technology to allow us to deliver healthcare more efficiently,” he said.
“I believe the SEHSC will be an exemplar on how we collect data and how we use data to inform patients and those who care for patients.”
Data centre transformation
HP was awarded the contract to deploy two 20-foot HP 20c PODs as part of a five-year service agreement, with the trust also partnering with BT. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
The two modular data centres are situated 800m apart outside the main hospital building, connected by a 40GB fibre network and set up in an active-active configuration as part of a private cloud.
The PODs contain HP Proliant BladeSystem c7000 enclosures, which are currently 38 percent full, enabling room for expansion in the long term. The server environment supports 250 virtual machines running on VMware vSphere, with plans to upgrade to 5.0 version.
The servers are connected to a iSCSI storage area network (SAN) via HP Virtual Connect FlexFabric 10Gb Ethernet Modules.
Prior to the introduction of the PODs, the trust relied on two server rooms which had been in use for over twenty years. These were "expensive to run, hard to cool and extremely prone to failure", said Stephen Stewart, assistant director technology and telecommunications at SEHSC.
"The power requirements are just going up and up," he added. “They were not fit for purpose.”
The new data centre environment situated outside the hospital building make use of Northern Ireland's low average temperatures of around 25 degrees celcius to help save on cooling costs. The more efficient data centres now run at a power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.2, an improvement compared to the previous PUE of 2.0.
The trust initially planned to build ‘bricks and mortar’ data centres within its new building. However this was considered unfeasible, partly because it would mean taking up valuable space that could be used by clinicians.
“Demand for IT services in the healthcare sector has grown exponentially in the past few years, but the simple fact is that hospitals are not designed to house data centres,” said Stephen Stewart.
“From day one, we know that the HP PODs will deliver scalable capacity to meet our compute requirement for the next seven to ten years.”