Case Study

Global Health IT Services Provider: Cisco ACI Integration

Multi-step proof of concept proves integration feasibility of next-generation compute platform with a large healthcare solution provider’s existing Cisco ACI environment

PROVIDING INTELLIGENT SOLUTIONS FOR THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY

With IT services on the rise within the industry, health facilities must adopt solid technology foundations to provide excellent patient care while maintaining costs and revenues.

A large part of this foundation includes the ability to run workloads on a powerful compute platform. One Health IT Services Provider is working towards migrating to an internal Gen 10 compute platform to meet demanding client-to-server ratio needs by adopting HPE Synergy.

This move was kickstarted by end-of-life (EOL) dates for the Provider’s legacy system, but an upgraded system will allow them to run more workloads on a much smaller data center footprint. Migrating to Gen 10 would adjust their workloads-to-server ratio from 4:1 to 6:1, saving data center space, power and cooling costs.

The organization was concerned that introducing Synergy would impact their existing Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) deployment. As a file and services provider for over 27,000 health facilities worldwide, the organization was striving to elevate their customer experience and lower internal cost with this new implementation.

 They turned to WWT to evaluate their current ACI environment and discover the best course for integrating HPE Synergy Virtual Connect.

POWER AND SCALE OF LAB SERVICES IN THE ATC

 In order to fully assess both the benefits and fallbacks of incorporating this compute power with Cisco ACI, the customer’s environment needed to be fully mimicked within the Advanced Technology Center (ATC), with all workloads running at scale.

While recreating a customer’s environment is a regular task for our ATC engineers, this engagement covered some new ground. The Health IT Services Provider offers the interface for their end customers’ electronic medical records database, with over 500,000 customers connected to their system at any given time. Mirroring this environment required bringing together advanced technologies from a variety of vendors (Cisco, HPE, VMware, Citrix) while working with multiple disciplines including compute, virtualization and operations.

ATC engineers were able to architect more than 500 virtual devices that reflected the customer’s end-user compute footprint and demonstrated how the workloads could be moved into ACI and run on HPE’s platform, with zero downtime.

MULTI-STEP PROOF OF CONCEPT

With the customer’s environment built at scale in the ATC, WWT engineers were ultimately able to assess and test several factors related to Cisco ACI integration.

Test 1: Complete workload migration from fabric path to Cisco ACI

The Health IT Services Provider was an early adopter of Cisco ACI but was not yet taking full advantage of the investment. Some workloads were still running on traditional switching methods, or FabricPath, and the ACI network was used mostly in a non-production environment, prohibiting the automation capabilities and ease of support that a complete deployment offers.

The customer’s end goal is to move all workloads out of the fabric path and into their ACI network. As part of the proof of concept (POC) engagement, ATC engineers showed the easiest way to make this move with almost zero downtime.

To accomplish this, we leveraged native tools within VMware and Citrix to move large amounts of compute resources from one host to another, using server hardware to reflect both current and future infrastructure designs.

WWT offers unique insight into their ACI roadmap with our expertise in solution design and architecture, coupled with our in-depth understanding of the customer’s environment.

Test 2: Greenfield implementation of HPE Synergy Virtual Connect

We worked in conjunction with HPE engineers to develop a script that would sync the configuration of Cisco ACI and HPE Synergy Virtual Connect.

Through POC testing and demonstration, we presented how the configuration would be accomplished and determined the limiting factors that would accompany this integration. We found that Synergy has the raw compute strength that the customer is looking for; however the connectivity and integration with Cisco ACI needs time to mature before the customer can achieve full network manageability.

Test 3: Introduction of Cisco UCS

After proving both the successes and obstacles when integrating HP Synergy, we also tested the configuration of Cisco UCS as their main compute platform.

As a Cisco product, UCS cleanly integrates into the ACI architecture. However, the platform has less overall compute capability than Synergy and also fails to fit into the Health IT Services Provider’s long-term compute strategy.

LAB SERVICES DETERMINES COST-EFFECTIVE SOLUTION

Moving forward, the customer is working to migrate as much as 50% of the current compute platform onto Cisco ACI in the coming year. This move positions the organization to then make their decision regarding a Gen 10 compute platform, since they can integrate the chosen computing power directly into Cisco ACI.

Choosing WWT to perform this proof of concept provided this customer a distinctive and necessary approach to making this decision. Our engineers acted as a neutral third party by bringing together and testing multiple vendors within our lab environment, ultimately allowing the customer to make an informed choice.

The Health IT Services Provider continues to look at Synergy as their future compute platform and can rely on WWT to test, validate, design and deploy technology solutions that benefit their end customers.