Sun Hopes to Stimulate Healthcare IT Sales

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You don’t have to work in a hospital or the healthcare industry to know that the amount of healthcare-related data has been growing exponentially. Indeed, even at a relatively small 100-bed hospital, basic medical records and medical images are creating terabytes of new data that need to be stored and managed every year.

Combine the need to properly store and manage this sensitive information with the need to comply with regulations such as HIPAA, throw in $20 billion in healthcare IT spending, and storage and data management vendors are practically falling over themselves to show hospitals that theirs is just the solution they need to prevent the tsunami of healthcare data from flooding their servers and wiping them out.

In fact, many storage and data management vendors have been teaming up in hopes of increasing their chances of making a hospital sale. Among the list of recent partnerships, Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) is joining forces with BridgeHead Software, a leading provider of healthcare data management software, to create HEAT, or Healthcare Enterprise Archiving Technology.

Sun — which is in the process of being acquired by Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) — and BridgeHead are hoping that their new solution will be warmly received by hospitals looking for a cost-effective, long-term data management and storage solution.

A Healthcare Bridgehead

While no stranger to hospitals, with a good-sized installed base, Sun, even before the HITECH stimulus act, had been looking to partner with a software vendor with impeccable healthcare data management and medical imaging archiving credentials in the healthcare space. After looking at several vendors, “BridgeHead rose to the top,” said Tony Cina, global market segment manager for healthcare at Sun.

“They understood PACS and the medical imaging archive industry, which was important to us,” he said. Sun also liked that BridgeHead had hospital customers around the world and was a certified MEDITECH vendor, “which opened up thousands of hospitals to us,” said Cina.

As for BridgeHead, it welcomed the opportunity to combine forces with Sun and extend its reach. And both Sun and BridgeHead felt that HEAT, which takes scanned documents and data from systems such as PACS and e-mail and encrypts and compresses them before storing them in a repository, then indexes the data so it is easy searchable, offered hospitals a unique and attractive storage and data management proposition.

“We think HEAT is compelling for a number of reasons,” said Charles Mallio, vice president of business development and corporate marketing at BridgeHead Software. “One is that unlike some competitive solutions, for example IBM and HP, we do out-of-the-box active archiving, as well as passive. And we can actually reach into primary storage, seamlessly stub data, move it into HEAT, and make multiple copies in the archive, so you don’t have to do anything to the original. And HEAT stores data more cost effectively.”

HEAT also seamlessly integrates with PACS, HIS and medical records systems.

Centera Killer?

To reach as wide an audience as possible, Sun and BridgeHead offer HEAT in three configurations, or degrees of heat (to continue the metaphor). There’s low HEAT (12 TB of raw storage), for smaller hospitals; medium HEAT (24 TB of raw storage), for mid-sized hospitals; and high HEAT (48 TB of raw storage), for larger enterprises. And each version of HEAT is scalable. Pricing starts at under $100,000.

“That’s the beauty of the way the system’s configured, and why I like to call it a flexible appliance,” explained Mallio. “You get the cost savings and simplicity with the basic solution, but if you fill it up faster than you thought, it’s very easy for us to expand that out and add another shelf of storage in there or bring you up to the next size unit. So you don’t have to worry about filling it up and doing a lift and replace. With HEAT, it’s very easy to add on and expand what you have.”

Unlike with an EMC (NYSE: EMC) Centera, said Cina. “If you run out of space on a Centera, you have to buy a whole new Centera. That doesn’t happen with this product. And we don’t lock you in. There’s no proprietary technology. It’s all open source technology.”

Sun and BridgeHead also claim that HEAT is easy to install and maintain.

Similar to NAS, you just plug HEAT into your network, and it presents itself as an NTFS volume — and can be up and running in as little as half a day, according to Mallio (although depending on which configuration you get, he acknowledged it could take a day or longer).

Once operational, HEAT automatically manages data across the three Sun storage tiers — with Tier 1 a Sun Fire x4240 server with 16 2.5-inch SASinternal disk drives; Tier 2 a Sun Fire x4540 server with eight cores of AMD Opteron processing; and Tier 3, depending on the size of the install, either a Sun StorageTek SL48 Tape Library or a Sun StorageTek SL500 Modular Library System. And because it is “self protecting” and automatically backs up metadata, HEAT (in theory) requires less time and manpower than other systems to maintain and manage, a further cost savings.

Healthcare IT Savings

When asked who the target customer for HEAT is, Cina replied, “any hospital that’s looking to do more with less. The HEAT product has all the attributes hospitals are looking for today, meaning less costly, high performance, low power consumption, and scalable.”

“HEAT can dramatically lower the total cost of ownership for a hospital’s mission critical data,” said Casey Palowitch, Sun’s senior director for business development and systems engineering for global government, education, healthcare. “By combining Sun server and storage products, which are widely used in healthcare environments, with archiving software from BridgeHead, customers have a new intelligent way to cost-effectively retain and manage healthcare data long term.”

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Jennifer Schiff
Jennifer Schiff
Jennifer Schiff is a business and technology writer and a contributor to Enterprise Storage Forum. She also runs Schiff & Schiff Communications, a marketing firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.

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