Data Center Strategies Are Increasingly Critical for Health IT

At a time when healthcare is increasingly dependent on digital technologies that enable and inform our providers, clinicians and care delivery systems, the invisible behind-the-scenes infrastructure framework becomes critically important to ensure a stable and predictable.

As a utility, we often take it for granted because it runs in the background and we just expect it to work. This expectation is as it should be. Our caregivers’ top priority is to provide the best possible care using tools that help them navigate patient information, associated workflows, and complement their clinical expertise.

The reliability and growth of these systems requires a resilient, redundant architecture designed to “keep those lights on”, anticipate failures, and self-correct to ensure availability and reliable performance. As high-performing healthcare organizations have evolved over time, the complexities of designing, implementing, and maintaining high availability in critical clinical and business applications have also evolved.

The complex problem of protecting enterprise infrastructure and compute and storage assets requires the right mindset, the right vision, thoughtful leadership, and an innovative and strategic mindset that is ready to go. ‘job.

It also requires having a plan that conveys the criticality of these assets and aligns the planned plans with the business needs for these technologies. A fundamental and overriding element to help meet these needs is the creation of a data center strategy and continuous improvement performance plan.

Historical context of infrastructure evolution

Traditionally, a data center approach has focused on redundancy and backing up core technologies and data, to ensure they met the organization’s “uptime” standards and were recoverable. in case of failure. Server failure, inaccessibility of a storage framework, bad weather disabling a network link or any other unforeseen outage, this is what the infrastructure teams have focused on and against. have protected themselves with our data center designs.

Fast forward to 20 or even 30 years and note that many organizations now find themselves limited by using the same design approach. The world has changed; and expectations are heightened as the infrastructure is even more closely aligned with cybersecurity, making system availability more critical.

There’s a whole new dynamic playing into what we need and how we need to build a data center strategy that meets these heightened clinical and business needs.

Industry standards – where are we now?

While IT historically focused on what was important to meet internal SLAs and validate its investments, we are now asking what the business needs and what are the costs and risks associated with a prolonged unavailability of systems.

Although we cannot afford to have redundancy in every situation due to limiting factors such as budget and application architectures, we can partner with the business to understand the basic technology needs and the impact of downtime on our business and clinical units.

Getting the right perspective will determine realistic and technically achievable goals for recovery within acceptable and mutually agreeable time frames. The goal becomes to create a technical framework as a fundamental part of a data center strategy that provides resiliency across geographies to ensure business continuity and disaster recovery goals are supportable.

At the base is a design for an active/active data center architecture that establishes the foundation to then design and deploy technologies that meet recovery time objectives (maximum amount of time the application can be unavailable without negative impact severe) and recovery point objectives (the amount of lost data measured in time that can reasonably be recovered by manual intervention after the system is available again) as defined by a business impact assessment.

Data Center Strategy Paves the Way for Business Continuity

Based on a BIA, we are able to map each business and clinical application to a tier and each tier will have a defined RTO and RPO. Knowing how long the business needs an application to recover and what the maximum target for data or transaction loss is critical to designing and investing in technology to achieve defined metrics.

Returning to the basic design and implementation of basic architectures (such as diverse and redundant WAN circuits, real-time duplicated and replicated storage, geographically separated and fully redundant data centers), High performing healthcare organizations can position themselves to design and implement the elements of technology for each specific critical application and its derived disaster recovery goals.

Why rely on a data center strategy?

No data center strategy is the same. The specific needs of each organization differ. Each organization should have a data center strategy that reflects its own unique situation that balances cost, risk management, and downtime impacts.

Defining a strategy is not a single philosophy, but rather a living document that creates the vision with specific plans to implement it in accordance with organizational priorities and timelines, then reviewed every one to two years at a minimum to validate business objectives. alignment.

Being able to stay a step ahead technologically through a thoughtful and scalable data center strategy enables IT to anticipate and respond effectively to unexpected events that are becoming more and more frequent in the world. interconnected today through cyberattacks, failing technologies or perhaps even growth and acquisitions where we need to be nimble and nimble enough to deal with unforeseen expansions while maintaining our resilient postures.

Paul J. Williams is Associate Vice President of IS Infrastructure Technology at Penn Medicine.