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Maximize Epic Performance and TCO by Migrating to Intel® Architecture

With changes to its database management technology and licensing requirements, explore why now is the time to consider migrating your Epic platform to Intel architecture.

April 6, 2021 6 minute read

From small clinics to major medical centers, virtually everyone relies on secure, real-time electronic healthcare record (EHR) platforms to serve patients, caregivers, researchers and provider organizations. The undisputed industry leader in EHR is Epic, offering critical specialized software that enriches the patient experience, enables clinicians and other providers to improve outcomes, and provides the foundation for today’s data-driven healthcare systems. 

Until now Epic has been based on InterSystems Caché® as the core database management technology for its EHR software. Initially it ran only on an AIX operating system running on IBM Power Systems™ mainframe platform, but that changed starting in 2012, when Epic approved Intel-based platforms running Linux. However, migrating from AIX to a more cost-effective Intel/Linux based solution could be prohibitive due to strict licensing structures that made it costly for healthcare customers to switch platforms; as a result, many customers balked at even considering migration as a viable option.

Now, with the announcement that Epic is sunsetting Caché and its licensing requirements, that’s all changing: healthcare organizations that once were hesitant to migrate can now explore the performance gains and additional benefits of migrating Epic to a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) based on Intel® architecture.

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Compelling reasons to consider an Epic platform migration

Epic will support the next version of Caché, called InterSystems IRIS®, which combines database management capabilities with interoperability and analytics — as well as performance-enhancing technologies such as sharding, in which big data blocks are broken into smaller “shards.” InterSystems IRIS provides a new, more favorable licensing model and eliminates the penalty that used to be incurred when converting AIX to Linux. With these InterSystems IRIS advantages and Epic’s waiving of license transfer costs, those earlier barriers to migration are suddenly removed.

Although the IBM AIX mainframe platform continues to be an approved Epic EHR platform, it’s also a high-maintenance option — proprietary and expensive, with steep re-licensing fees. What’s more, modern technology is trending away from mainframes in favor of more modular, flexible and agile infrastructure that better answer the needs of today’s businesses and accommodate critical workloads like artificial intelligence at the edge, analytics and IoT, to name a few. Consequently, it’s difficult to find skilled IT staff with the necessary training and experience to manage an IBM AIX mainframe. Moreover, those hard-to-find skill sets come at a premium price. And, if your data center is a mix of traditional architecture and IBM-specific proprietary systems, you’re likely paying for multiple managers.

In contrast, migrating to an HCI architecture provides a more open solution with the ability to employ standard off-the-shelf servers, significantly reducing hardware and overall infrastructure costs, as well as adding new levels of flexibility, with greater choice of server and vendor options. Moreover, HCI offers the benefit of having a common server and virtualization architecture for managing all Epic tiers and workflows, creating efficiencies in the management, support and updating of the entire infrastructure ecosystem. And, utilizing HCI makes it easier and more economical to find and retain skilled IT resources.

By migrating to an HCI architecture, healthcare IT organizations can achieve high performance, resiliency and availability while reducing complexity and introducing scalability — key advantages especially for small community hospitals and private practices, the customers for whom an HCI solution is most appropriate.

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WWT maximizes Epic EHR performance with Intel® architecture

Healthcare is among the most significant industries to benefit from the longtime technology partnership between Intel and World Wide Technology (WWT) – a continual cycle of innovative collaboration as we introduce improved platform choices for Epic and its customers based on the latest Intel technologies.

Most notably, the 2nd gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor delivers unique performance advantages across all Epic EHR tiers. For example, at the Client tier, Intel was found to deliver higher Epic Hyperspace session density at lower per-session cost, requiring 5 percent fewer servers for 5,000 sessions. At the Application, Presentation and Database tiers, that per-session advantage increased to 15 percent fewer servers required for 5,000 Epic Hyperspace sessions, achieving $1,300 lower server costs and a 15 percent reduction in server power.

Crucially for an industry in which uptime is literally a matter of life and death, the 2nd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor is designed for 99.999 percent server availability, as well as up to 28 cores of increased performance: up to 1.65X average performance boost over the previous generation processor, and up to 5X transaction processing gains on mission-critical applications.

To satisfy the growing demand for virtualization, Epic has approved the hyperconverged and composable infrastructures enabled by 2nd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors across all its tiers, including Cisco HyperFlex, HPE, Nutanix,  Red Hat and VMware. By moving to a new platform based on Intel® architecture, all Epic components are united on a single platform with a common pane of glass for efficient management.

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WWT’s healthcare expertise eases the path of Epic migration

WWT has a unique understanding of the diverse and often complex technology needs of the healthcare industry — an understanding grounded in decades of career achievement, often in private practice before joining our specialized WWT team. With consulting physicians on full-time staff and dozens of other healthcare-focused professionals experienced in all aspects of modern medical services, WWT is uniquely qualified to provide guidance, deployment and ongoing support.

WWT works with a diverse array of healthcare organizations, from the nation’s largest medical campuses to research centers, community hospitals and rural practices. Our understanding of healthcare technology, workflows, operational issues, data security and confidentiality requirements gives us the informed perspective to offer the most appropriate solution for each healthcare data management challenge. For example, WWT can model various total cost of ownership (TCO) models to demonstrate the effective impact of an Epic EHR migration, with insight into the user base, server footprint and upfront investment. 

Whatever your scenario, WWT is highly qualified to help navigate your migration journey.

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Now’s the time to explore Epic migration to Intel architecture

Epic’s move from InterSystems Caché data management platform to InterSystems IRIS opens up all new choices to the thousands of healthcare provider organizations who run Epic on IBM AIX — and who might feel locked into its mainframe solution. This move sweeps away the barriers to a more flexible, open hyper-converged infrastructure running on Intel architecture.

With this new platform comes a wealth of potential benefits, including:

  • Lower hardware costs by using standard x86 servers.
  • Lower licensing costs for fewer, higher-density servers.
  • Higher availability with 2nd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors and easy-to-deploy vSphere clusters.
  • Easier administrative staffing, drawing from an abundance of trained and certified talent.

WWT’s physician-led team of healthcare technology specialists stands ready to help you navigate your unique migration path. Gain fresh insights into the data management benefits your healthcare organization can achieve by migrating your Epic platform to Intel architecture. 

To learn more, contact WWT, request a “Preliminary Configuration Guide” for Intel® architecture from Epic or schedule an onsite assessment to scope and size your environment.

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