Desktop virtualization technology is becoming an increasingly popular option for businesses and organizations looking to securely manage and deliver desktops, applications, and data. This is especially true in today’s changing world, where resiliency demands greater support for remote and flexible working.
New virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions can solve this computing challenge. Not only can they help to reduce costs, but simplify management, improve security, and maintain a good user experience.
That last point is crucial to productivity. VDI can provide a solid technical foundation that enables workers to log into their personal workspaces from any connected machine. But large deployments and/or demanding applications usually require more compute resources. This quest for higher performance often boils down to memory, with traditional DRAM typically too expensive to add in sufficient quantities.
The Bolton NHS Foundation Trust faced this problem when it sought to upgrade its VDI hardware in 2020. The Trust provides patient care across 20 clinics and healthcare centers in the Greater Manchester area, including the prestigious Royal Bolton Hospital. But the introduction of an Allscripts Sunrise Acute Care EPR (Electronic Patient Record) system in 2019 placed new demands upon its aging server infrastructure.
As Brett Walmsley, CTO and Head of IT at the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, explains: “EPR and Windows 10 took their toll on our desktops in terms of general performance. EPR requires a lot of RAM. It’s got all our pharmacy systems wrapped up in it. So, without EPR available, or if it’s not running properly, our hospital will come to a stop. We need an infrastructure that can support it, today and into the future.”
As usage and users using the EPR system went up, performance went down. With 90% of the Trust relying on virtual desktops, failure couldn’t be tolerated. What Walmsley and his team needed was an innovative and cost-effective technology solution to give clinicians the ability to provide the right care, at the right time, and at the right location.
Seeking to replace its farm of 80x Dell PowerEdge R730 servers, the Trust's new infrastructure reduced its footprint to 56 Dell PowerEdge R640 servers. Supplied by long-time strategic partner 4way Solutions, these are built around Intel® Xeon® Gold 6258R processors. Crucially, the servers incorporate 128 GB 2666 MT/s Intel® Optane™ Persistent Memory modules.
Intel Optane Persistent Memory is an innovative memory solution that delivers a large and persistent memory tier at an affordable cost. Supplied in a DIMM form factor, it is available in higher capacities than traditional DRAM (at up to 512 GB per DIMM). It also offers full data persistence and low-latency performance for memory intensive workloads.
It’s a technology solution that delivers several key advantages. For example, data shows that by adding Intel Optane Persistent Memory to a VMware VDI setup, IT departments can support nearly 87% more users1. Furthermore, memory costs can be reduced by almost a third, while total cost of ownership (TCO) can be lowered by more than 16%2.
The speed and flexibility of the VDI not only delivers a consistent user experience, but it enables clever options for enhanced agility. Wherever staff go, their desktop follows them and, with Imprivata-enabled RFID smart cards, there are no passwords. They simply tap the reader and enter a PIN code to log on. The hospital even has wireless, battery-powered carts. These are used to transfer a clinician’s desktop to a mobile screen that can be rolled right up to a patient’s bedside.
Staff using the new VDI are already noticing a difference. According to Brett Walmsley, the percentage performance increase is “probably 80–90% quicker.” Where it used to take 35–40 seconds for the EPR to load on a desktop, they have reduced that to around 10 seconds.
The success of Bolton’s approach to VDI has caught the attention of the wider healthcare community too. “NHS England have asked us to blueprint the primary care VDI rollout we are undertaking this year," reveals Brett Walmsley. "We scaled out our current desktop, which worked well for remote GP clinicians working remotely during Covid, and we plan to blueprint hundreds more."