Houston Healthcare

Nutanix Provides Rx for VDI Ailments at Houston Healthcare

Business Needs

Needed a better storage, server, and networking platform for VDI deployment


  • The Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform
  • Nutanix Acropolis Distributed Storage Fabric
  • Nutanix Prism management solution


  • Provided physicians with faster access to patient data, improving the quality of healthcare
  • Simplified management of virtual desktop
  • Reduced system upgrades and patching time from several days to 20 minutes with zero downtime
  • Obtained excellent technical support, not just on Nutanix systems, but also for VDI environment

Houston Healthcare

Houston Healthcare first began serving the people of Houston County, Georgia back in the 1950s. Starting with one 50-bed community hospital, it has now evolved into a world-class healthcare system consisting of seven separate entities serving over 300,000 people each year. With two fully accredited acute care medical facilities and a combined capacity of 282 beds, the medical provider’s mission is to improve the healthcare of its surrounding communities by providing patient-focused, high quality, cost-effective services while promoting health and wellness.

IT Challenges

Houston Healthcare was relying on a PC-based infrastructure to supply information to its medical staff. “Our biggest challenge was providing our physicians with fast access to patient data,” noted Dave Griffin, director of IT Infrastructure at Houston Healthcare. “The average login time for the personal computers ranged from 45 seconds to 1.5 minutes. And as the doctors transitioned from one patient area to another, they had to re-log in to different PCs to access their desktops. We calculated that our physicians were spending 20 minutes each day just logging in and out of machines, wasting precious time that could be spent providing quality healthcare. And on top of that, they had no way of using the iOS devices we had just purchased during our transition to the new Meditech EMR system. That was creating a lot of problems as well.”

Choosing Nutanix

“The first time I tried to use VDI was back in 2008 in our ICU environment,” Griffin said. “We had numerous problems within the first 21/2 years, so we took it out and put the PCs back in. We knew if we were going to be successful with the new VDI deployment, we had to choose better storage, server, and networking infrastructure before we launched the new virtual desktops.”

One of Houston Healthcare’s IT admins suggested that Griffin look at Nutanix. “I called Nutanix and asked if we could see a demo,” Griffin said. “Since I had this bad experience with VDI, they tried to convince me how much better it would be on Nutanix. I must admit, I tend to be rough with vendors sometimes–especially if I’ve had a bad experience. But the Nutanix guys said it was going to work, so I cautiously believed them.”

Houston Healthcare’s IT ran an extremely short POC on the Nutanix systems. “The deployment was very fast; we had everything up and running within a few hours,” noted Griffin. “We did take a few weeks to run a series of very thorough tests. We wanted the quickest possible logins for our physicians, so our guys spent a lot of time working on that with Nutanix. We were amazed at the fast logins and ease of use of the Nutanix technology.”

“ I rarely rave about any vendors or technologies, unless they are truly exceptional. But when a product or a service greatly exceeds my wildest expectations, I’m willing to tell the world. ”

– Dave Griffin, Director of IT Infrastructure, Houston Healthcare

The Simplicity of Converged Technology

Houston Healthcare made the decision to purchase seven Nutanix 3050 systems. “We love the Nutanix converged technology,” noted Derek Barton, associate director of IT infrastructure at Houston Healthcare. “With traditional storage and server architectures, there are so many separate components. The Nutanix box converges all of the compute, storage, and networking into one box. I no longer have to run network lines, connect to a SAN, or rely on all of these fabric switches to maintain the SAN. Plus, all of the separate components in the 3-tier infrastructures added up to a lot of money. The cheapest we could get the SAN alone was $250,000. Nutanix provided everything we needed in a much more cost-effective solution.”

Deploying Virtual Desktops

Houston Healthcare deployed the Nutanix and VDI solution for all of its physicians earlier this year. “We have already deployed 150 desktops and should reach our initial goal of 350 users by the end of next month,” Griffin said. “After we finish phase one of our deployment to the doctors, we plan on extending VDI to all of our nursing staffas well.”

Houston Healthcare’s physicians are very happy with the fast access to information using the new virtual desktops, according to Griffin. “The logins on the thin clients are much faster,” he reported. “It takes just 20 seconds for the initial login, and that session stays active for at least two hours of non-activity. Subsequent logins take less than eight seconds. That time savings has been a huge improvement for physician productivity.”

The new virtual desktops enable the physicians to access patient information from a wide variety of mobile devices. “When we told our physicians that they can also bring their desktops up on their iPhones, iPads, and Droids, they were ecstatic,” noted Griffin. “They can reach over to their iPads the moment they wake up to check on that day’s rounds and activities. They used to have to power on their PCs, login to our VPN or Citrix solution, and then try to access the system remotely. The convenience of the virtual desktop environment might be the biggest selling point for our medical staff.”

Easier Management

Moving to virtual desktops and the Nutanix Xtreme Computing platform has also made life easier for the healthcare provider’s IT staff. “Administrative tasks were much more difficult with our old thick clients,” noted Barton. “Patching was a huge administrative overhead for our technical support team, and upgrading 350 desktops took several days. With Nutanix, it takes just 20 to 30 minutes to patch or upgrade the environment and our users don’t see the patch, since it happens in the background. They used to receive messages saying they had to reboot their PCs. And sometimes they would have to reboot several times during the process if we had a series of patches. With Nutanix, the reboots don’t have to happen–there’s no downtime during the patching cycle anymore.” Barton also appreciates not having to deal with the PCs themselves. “PCs are very problematic, especially after the first year,” he noted. “In contrast, thin client devices can last 5 to 7 years. So we are expecting to see a good return on our investment with virtual desktops and Nutanix.”

Top-Notch Support

Griffin was pleased with the quality of Nutanix technical support. “I was very impressed with the entire Nutanix support team,” he said. “Support is always complicated when you buy different components from multiple vendors. When you have a problem, they tend to point their fingers in different directions as the source of the problem. It’s a completely different experience with Nutanix. When we have an issue they say, ‘If it’s our problem, we will fi x it. But if it’s someone else’s problem, call us anyway and we will do our best to help.’ So I called them with a problem that was caused by VMware Horizon and the Nutanix technician solved the issue immediately. They are easy to work and willing to go above and beyond what I pay them to do to help. I was very surprised by that. I have never seen this level of support from any vendor in my 31 years of working in IT.”

Future Plans

The Nutanix VDI deployment has been so successful that Houston Healthcare has now expanded its budget for additional Nutanix systems and virtual desktops for the coming year. “I share my love of Nutanix with a lot of the technical groups I belong to,” admitted Griffin. “Most of the people I have spoken to have some of the same nightmares that I had about VDI. But I always tell them, ‘Try Nutanix, you can’t go wrong!’ I rarely rave about any vendors or technologies, unless they are truly exceptional. But when a product or a service greatly exceeds my wildest expectations, I’m willing to tell the world.”