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Cisco and NetApp's Flexpod enables scalability for NHS trusts' data anlaytics platform

Matthew Finnegan | July 11, 2013
North and East London Commissioning Support Unit (NELCSU) uses Cisco and NetApp system for 3.3 million patients as business grows.

A London NHS organisation set up a private cloud using Cisco and NetApp Flexpod architecture to deliver its health care analytics platform to clinicians, as the number of patients under its care increased three-fold.

North and East London Commissioning Support Unit (NELCSU) faced a number of significant changes to its business as it merged with another trust in April 2012, before being separated into a support group — the NELCSU itself — and a number of clinical commissioning groups in the region which received its IT services.

The changes meant that NELCSU had to provide IT support for 13 clinical commissioning groups which previously came under the remit of the trust in areas such as Newham, Waltham Forest, City and Hackney, while the number of patients increased from just over a million to 3.3 million. However, with no extra IT staff brought onboard as NELCSU's services expanded, the organisation needed more value from its data centre infrastructure.

"We used to be looking after little over a million patients within our catchment area,"said Gregory Peacock, ICT Manager at NELCSU. "Now we have gone up to around three million people that we cover in terms of commissioning support, and with the same size team which covered the smaller group we were able to expand and cover a much larger area."

The NELCSU provides a number of software services from its private cloud infrastructure hosted in an Interxion co-location facility in Liverpool Street. This includes file and email systems, including Microsoft Exchange, while finance and HR systems are provided through NHS shared services.

The most important service that NELCSU provides in terms of its IT is its intelligence and informatics system, delivered to clinicians through an online dashboard. The SQL data warehouse platform, developed in-house, is used by the clinician groups to gain insights into data in order to inform a wide range of decisions, from managing budgets to evaluating the business impact of commissioning decisions. This is where the NELSCU has seen the most significant increase in demands from clinician groups, Peacock said, as the number of patients has increased.

In order to deliver the extra compute and storage resources need to deliver the services to its clinician group customers, which has also grown to include other trusts and local authorities throughout the UK, NELCSU decided to implement Cisco and NetApp's converged infrastructure offering, Flexpod.

Although the existing legacy hardware from Fujitsu and NetApp had another few years of usability according to Peacock, the predominantly physical server environment did not give the flexibility required to scale to meet the needs of NELCSU when organisational changes took hold.

"We knew the infrastructure needed changing and it wasn't in a state that was very easy to upgrade piecemeal," he said.


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