Healthcare – it’s time for the channel to make a difference


Healthcare IT specialist expert

Peter Blythe, Solutions Development Manager at Avnet Technology Solutions UK

Recently, Gartner announced that it believed 2012 would be a year in which channel leaders would redefine how IT operates and how it is employed by enterprises. A strong IT system is essential for an innovative and amplified organisation. One market that is certainly developing its IT and technology services is the healthcare sector. Recent research indicates that the healthcare sector is willing to spend more and more of its budget on IT solutions and technology in order to improve patient care, as IT is used increasingly frequently to strengthen the customer experience, as well as drive operational automation and control.

This is a great opportunity for the channel as long as it delivers good value solutions, allowing clinicians and IT departments to improve patient care (which is of course of the utmost importance) and also achieve more with less. It seems that healthcare organisations are experiencing a record surge in unstructured data, whilst IT departments and clinical data centres are also struggling with the need to leverage the inherent value of clinical data through increased analytics while managing the many medical applications demanded by clinicians and regulators. One key aspect to understanding how data growth can spiral out of control is often evident in the way that hospitals and trusts are funded. e.g. A new medical scanner may be bought using the hospital trust charity budget, however the management and responsibility of the system is managed by the IT department, but the data is the responsibility of the radiography department.  This type of situation further exacerbates the uncontrolled data growth and leads to further inefficiencies.

Data is of course essential to any organisation, especially in the healthcare industry, now that everything has become digitalised and such high volumes of personal and valuable information are being managed on a daily basis. Recent NHS data showed that 17,000 British males were admitted to hospital between 2009 and 2012 for obstetric appointments (related to childbirth) – the official figures are available at Data management errors clearly need to be solved and reducing data input errors is a good starting point, as illustrated by the new University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre in London, open since April of this year. The centre allows patients to check in at kiosks (like at the airport!) and technology such as a bar code permits automatic check-ins. To make the process even simpler for patients and reduce data errors, a listing of all future appointments will even appear on screen.

In addition, by bringing the clinical and patient data together with technologies like the Hitachi Clinical repository, clinicians are able to link all of a patient’s data together leading to a more accurate and efficient diagnosis.

I believe that there’s now a chance for the channel to deliver solutions to provide productive and easily accessible data, especially as patient data has to be held and lasts longer than the technology that runs it.

The increasing use of scanning equipment for diagnoses and treatments emphasises that the value of technology when dealing with patients is already clear to healthcare and clinicians. The aptly-named “Surgery by mouse” is becoming common place with technology providing the ability to carry out intricate keyhole surgery leading to improved recovery times.  However with the NHS facing the Nicholson Challenge to reduce spending by £20 billion in efficiency savings by 2015 and 4% savings year-on-year, the channel will need to prove that new solutions will save money and improve patient care. For a long time now healthcare organisations have understood the advantages of technology, so I can’t help but ask, is now the time for the IT channel to catch up and make a difference?

Posted under HealthPath

Channel Opportunity: Converged Systems

Converged Systems IT storage specialist

Wayne Gratton, EMEA SolutionsPath business development director

Today’s businesses are constantly changing and developing at a rapid pace that’s pushing IT departments and data centres to deliver applications that are fast, scalable and interoperable in a shorter time scale. Because of this, customers are now contemplating how to deliver improved OPEX in their data centres and are increasingly searching for ways to move towards the ‘private cloud.’ This could be driven by what customers are seeing in the public cloud – with instant provisioning of IT services – and expecting the same in their own dedicated data centres.

Changing workloads, such as Desktop Virtualisation, Business Analytics, ERP systems or even new application services, mean that companies are considering ways of centralising and consolidating their IT systems to meet demand, streamline company information and improve cost efficiency.

The question is: how can companies organise these pools of resources quickly enough to be able to implement repeatable, secure, manageable and cohesive applications? The answer… Converged systems.

It seems to me that converged systems are becoming more and more appealing to vendors to address this challenge. We’re certainly seeing an increase in interest from customers and partners who want to find out more about these solution opportunities and what they can offer the channel.

IDC’s 2012 European Storage Survey highlights the rapid rate at which converged systems are being adopted in European organisations. This year alone, more than a third of the surveyed organisations reported deploying some type of converged infrastructure. According to IDC, this interest in converged systems is the result of the rise in private cloud deployments – 20 percent cited they have implemented private clouds in 2012, compared with only six percent in the previous European storage survey, conducted in 2011.

Because of the increasing demand for this type of IT management process, many vendors, like HP, Cisco, Oracle and IBM, are now offering these solutions. However, it is also true that some vendors and resellers are still unaware of the market opportunity.

In this case, it’s essential to understand what converged systems are, what this technology can do and what exactly the benefits are.

So, with that being said, what is a converged system?

  • A converged system can be defined as a ‘pre-integrated, vendor-certified system’
  • The combination of storage and computing into a single entity is known as converged storage
  • It can contain: servers, data storage devices, networking equipment, middleware and application software in addition to software for IT infrastructure management, automation and orchestration
  • An operating system and virtualisation can also be part of a converged solution
  • It’s also worth noting IT vendors and industry analysts use various terms to describe the concept of a converged infrastructure. These include: ‘converged system,’ ‘unified computing,’ ‘fabric-based computing,’ and ‘dynamic infrastructure’

Why use converged systems?

  • Converged systems are a step up compared to reference architectures, as they are typically sold as pre-integrated solutions, even a SKU – a number or code used to identify each unique product to enable inventory to be tracked
  • They create a group of virtualised servers, storage and networking capacity that is shared by multiple applications and lines of business, making it more streamlined and more manageable
  • Converged infrastructure provides technical and business efficiencies, stemming from the pre-integration of technology components, the pooling of IT resources and the automation of IT processes

Converged systems address the key challenges of managing evolving workloads and copious amounts of data. I would highlight the key customer benefits as:

  • Ease and speed of deployment
  • Lower operating expenses
  • Improved security
  • Higher utilisation
  • Ease of management
  • Improved application performance and application availability

One thing’s for sure, these systems simplify the use and optimisation of application environments by integrating hardware, software and services into turnkey solutions. It can be noted that this converged approach allows resellers’ and partners’ customers to quickly get to grips with the full potential of virtualisation, cloud and next-generation applications, such as real-time analytics. In addition, it also helps to speed up the consolidation of legacy applications, data and infrastructure – quite simply to drive business growth and promote cost efficiency.

Posted under Cloud Computing, Virtualisation