The concept of a network fabric has been around for a few years now, but deployments have been spotty. One of the reasons for this sparseness is that it’s tough to come up with any kind of ROI around a network upgrade, particularly in the data center where you’re talking about pricey infrastructure.
To combat this, some vendors have oriented the sales process around business outcomes. And while “business outcomes” has become this year’s overused phase, the concept does make sense — if you can actually solve a business problem, it makes the whole sales process easier. However, selling to business outcomes generally requires some level of knowledge of the vertical.
One of the verticals that I think could benefit most from a network fabric is the healthcare vertical. Many healthcare organizations have older infrastructure; some haven’t had an upgrade to the network since Y2K. Additionally, there are some larger macro trends around privacy and the rapid digitization of healthcare records that are driving the need for a network change. So here are some of the top reasons I think healthcare should migrate to a network fabric.
- Provides faster access to electronic information. Physicians, nurses and other clinicians require significant volumes of information when making decisions. Traditional networks add far too much latency to quickly pull up large data sets. The flat, efficient design of a network fabric enables much faster access to electronic information.
- Serves as a key component of PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication Cystems), VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive) and other imaging technologies. Medical imaging means massive amounts of storage must be recorded and then archived. A network fabric connects storage systems to imaging systems and is a key component of the overall solution.
- Enables consumerization. Healthcare institutions have been aggressive with the use of consumer devices in the workplace. Hospitals have connected patient-monitoring systems to these devices so physicians and nurses can be immediately notified of any critical issue with a patient, meaning that any latency in transmission can jeopardize the quality of care. A network fabric provides the low-latency network required to make consumer devices a viable part of healthcare IT strategy.
- Optimizes the performance of desktop virtualization to support workstation-on-wheels programs. The digitization of healthcare means more computer terminals are required in more places to access and input information. However, it’s far too expensive to place a workstation everywhere a computer may be needed. To help, hospitals have rolled out workstation-on-wheels programs where computers can be moved from location to location when a physician, nurse or technician requires it. Desktop virtualization allows data to be centralized while still enabling ubiquities access. A successful desktop virtualization rollout requires a low-latency network fabric to optimize performance.
- Enables improvements to patient privacy. Manual switch-by-switch or port-by-port configuration is far too slow and error-prone to ensure the highest levels of security. The centralized control and policy provisioning of a network fabric means healthcare IT no longer needs to compromise privacy concerns by quickly enabling new services.
- Provides a robust network for deployment of apps such as video and telemedicine. Use of video in healthcare has skyrocketed as physicians leverage it to provide better, more personalized healthcare to remote patients. Video is a bandwidth-intensive application, and is sensitive to jitter and packet loss. A network fabric is ideally suited to usher in the video era in healthcare.