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IBM Partner Puts Big Data To Work At Seattle Children's Hospital

IBM's PureData System for Analytics is a critical element in the data warehouse system Brightlight Consulting is building for the hospital.

IBM partner Brightlight Consulting is developing an advanced analytics system for a Seattle hospital, with IBM's PureData System for Analytics converged infrastructure system a critical component of the project.

Brightlight, Redmond, Wash., has completed a key phase of the project at Seattle Children's Hospital, moving the facility's older analytics processes to the new platform. Brightlight CTO and co-founder David Overcash said the hospital already is seeing significant performance improvements.

"Now we're ready to take it to the next level," Overcash said in an interview, noting that the next phase involves pulling more research data from outside sources into the hospital's system.

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The hospital's business intelligence system is used to collect clinical, financial and operational data from 10 different IT systems, including its electronic medical record system and billing and general ledger systems, and combine it for analysis. In some cases, the IT systems produce thousands of data points for every child patient.

The analysis results are used to provide managers with a broad view of the hospital's patient care processes and help them spot trends and evaluate treatment protocols -- all with an eye toward improving patient care while reducing costs. Health-care organizations industrywide are trying to reduce widely differing costs for the same procedures by ensuring that resources are properly allocated, Overcash said.

The Seattle Children's Hospital system, for example, pulls together information about children brought into the neonatal intensive care unit, including their treatments and how long they stayed, and the financial implications of the newborns' treatment.

"Relating the clinical data to the financial and the operational -- that's where the complexity comes in," Overcash said.

The hospital had been performing the analysis with a data warehouse based on Microsoft's SQL Server database. But the system was limited in how much data it could handle. And it was limiting the number of projects the analytical team could take on, according to Overcash.

NEXT: Windows Servers Replaced With A Single PureData For Analytics System

Brightlight's expertise is business intelligence and data warehouse solutions, especially for health care, retail and digital media companies. The company works with a broad range of platforms (IBM, Oracle, Teradata, Microsoft, SAP/Business Objects and EMC/Greenplum) and technology (MicroStrategy, Tableau, Information Builders and ParAccel) vendors, as well as major solution providers and systems integrators such as Sirius Computer Solutions and Ascendant Technology, among others.

Overcash described IBM as Brightlight's "deepest competency," noting that the solution provider was working with Netezza, a developer of data warehouse appliances, before IBM acquired it in September 2010 for $1.7 billion. Along with consulting and managed services, Brightlight developed a number of its own technologies around the Netezza system, including the nzDIF data integration framework software and nzExpress deployment and systems management offerings.

The Netezza system is the core of the PureData System for Analytics IBM launched last year. The PureSystems line, which IBM debuted in April 2012, is the vendor's entry into the booming converged infrastructure market. Earlier this year IBM said it sold 2,300 PureSystems in 2012.

The PureData System for Analytics is a key element of the Seattle Children's Hospital project, according to Overcash. "We literally do 100 percent of the data processing on the PureData box," he said. "None of the other technologies can compete on that side of the equation."

Nightly processing tasks that used to take eight hours are now down to two, he said, with some analytical queries that took all night now performed in 10 minutes. And more routine queries that took minutes now take seconds.

Another selling point of the PureData system is the appliance model upon which it's developed, Overcash said, making it relatively simple for the hospital's data analysis team to operate it without a lot of involvement from the health-care facility's IT department.

All but four or five of the 30 Windows servers that had been running the business analytics system were replaced with the one IBM system, providing a significant return-on-investment on the infrastructure change alone, Overcash said. "That made it a no-brainer for the [hospital] CIO." That's before taking into consideration the benefits for the analytical team, such as the ease of adding new analysis projects to the system's scheduled tasks, he added.

Overcash said Brightlight is seeing demand for the PureData Systems because of its power for analytical processing. The solution provider is seeing demand for the PureSystems line overall because converged infrastructure systems are "changing the dialogue" solution providers have with CIOs who are trying to get control of their proliferating IT infrastructure so they can focus on higher-level services.


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