I Hate to Tell You This: Your Server Closet is Very Ill

Over the shoulder image of medical person viewing CT brain scan images on a computer.

One of the most challenging illnesses hospitals face today isn’t in the ICU or the OR — it’s in a closet. Server Closet Sclerosis (SCS) is a silent epidemic that hides in plain sight threatening the competitive health of care networks everywhere. Fortunately, a novel treatment using edge computing technology promises to realize operational and diagnostic agility, reliability and responsiveness across multiple edge devices, applications and services by merging them together seamlessly on a software-defined cloud-like platform that sits right on the real-time front lines where all medical data is generated.

Of course, SCS isn’t an actual infectious disease, but there are apt similarities. It’s widespread and deeply entrenched, highly variable and, in its own way, hospital-acquired. Without treatment, it will challenge the future viability of the organism. Now a handful of courageous providers and solution vendors are seeing success with the development and deployment of edge computing strategy to battle this scourge.

Extending computing beyond the cloud and data center to whatever you think of as your edge1 offers some critical benefits – like maintaining competitive strength or cutting out complexity and costs – by blending hardware performance with software-defined infrastructure. The result is a more robust and flexible computing body capable of supporting the latest diagnostic trends and care mandates using artificial intelligence (AI), analytics and computer vision – and a path to server closet wellness.

So, you discover your organization suffers from this condition. Now what do you do? Our treatment protocol starts with the unique value prop and opportunity offered by an edge computing strategy.

At its most basic, edge computing extends and complements existing data center and cloud computing systems by placing more autonomous compute capabilities closer to the data most relevant to a given operational or diagnostic objective. Broadly this helps mitigate issues that sole reliance on data center and cloud interactions presents including latency, privacy and data security, lack of persistent connectivity, and bandwidth cost and availability.

These factors are important for a couple reasons. First, the growth in health data coupled with increasing requirements for coordinated and collaborative workflows and care delivery that delivers a holistic view of the patient, are not easily accommodated by the existing rigid computing infrastructure of an ailing server closet. Second, new demands are emerging all the time as compute performance, security and analytics using AI, machine learning, deep learning, and inferencing converge to turn this new data complex into actionable insights, and faster, more informed decision-making your clinicians and patients expect.

Today many server closets are made up of mostly isolated islands of device-specific appliances and patient management application appliances based on tightly coupled OS, firmware and hardware making changes and repurposing of resources costly and difficult. By using this software-defined, near-real-time computing configuration, an agile, responsive, and reliable foundation that readily supports existing and new edge devices, applications and services on a single common platform is possible.

This new edge cure can deliver greatly enhanced reconfigurability, allowing organizations to better support and adapt to changing operational and care delivery needs while also lowering costs and improving ROI through reuse and repurposing, and resulting increased longevity, of existing IT infrastructure. This approach also provides a path to workload consolidation where the collective of medical devices and systems are more flexible and kept current more easily than an array of single purpose devices.

Awareness and treatment of SCS can’t come soon enough as every day there are more examples of pioneering IT clinicians finding remedies in edge computing. Yes, placing compute resources closer to the data source enhances care decision making through greater speed, accuracy and reliability. And, yes, with its unique connection to the explosion in interconnected medical and non-medical devices, an edge computing system can enable new applications and services that unlock enormous clinical value. But most critically, edge computing offers the opportunity to adopt a reconfigurable edge device, application and service delivery platform that can more easily adapt, expand, and add value over time.

As your data closet heals so shall your entire compute architecture move from stagnation to innovation. And once well on the way to making a full recovery, potential applications of this newly capable server closet are nearly limitless, spanning both the operational and diagnostic sides of healthcare — from asset tracking and inventory management to patient monitoring, smart imaging, and deep analytics.

As with any illness, diagnosis comes first and awareness of it among providers and institutions is growing. Starting treatment however is usually more difficult so many continue to allow their server closets, and inherently their broader body of IT, to suffer unnecessarily, inflamed and hardened by single-purpose deployments. Wherever you’re at with your computing strategy, and starting with your server closet, I invite you to consider edge computing as a powerful tonic for reinvigorating your computing infrastructure and for keeping your organization more competitive and viable long-term.

Learn more about how Intel’s edge computing solutions can help enhance provider organization performance and transform patient care.


1 “Edge computing is defined as the deployment of data-handling activities or other network operations away from centralized and always-connected network segments, and toward individual sources of data capture, such as endpoints like laptops, tablets, smartphones or IoT devices.” Techopedia. https://www.techopedia.com/definition/32472/edge-computing

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Published on Categories Artificial intelligence, data processing, Internet of ThingsTags , , ,
David P. Ryan

About David P. Ryan

Dave leads the global Health & Life Sciences business unit at Intel that focuses on digital transformation from edge-to-cloud in order to make precision, value-based care a reality. His customers are the manufacturers who build life sciences instruments, medical equipment, clinical systems, compute appliances and devices used by research centers, hospitals, clinics, residential care settings and the home. Dave has served on the boards of Consumer Technology Association Health & Fitness Division, HIMSS’ Personal Connected Health Alliance, the Global Coalition on Aging and the Alliance for Connected Care.

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