Some of our largest enterprise customers are deploying the next-generation of data center networking.  They are delivering automation and intelligence with programmable hardware and software – deployed with application centric models that work best for their workloads.  Their IT leaders have focused their creative energies to re-imagine their business – digitally transforming their operations – to drive customer-centered innovation and enable their organizations to deliver greater value because of new architectures, modernized infrastructure, and the power of intent-based automation in the data center.

And so, this also is the story of Inovalon, a cloud-based analytics technology company helping the healthcare industry transition from volume to value.   Facing increasing demand for its services, Inovalon didn’t have the time to stitch together and scale a complex mix of infrastructure components from multiple vendors.  The company’s IT staff wanted to adopt new, modern, and scalable technologies to support distributed compute models, a rapidly expanding data lake, visualization tools, and more.

So they chose to deploy first one, and then a second, pre-engineered, converged infrastructure data center design from Dell EMC and Cisco based upon the Vscale architecture.

“We had settled on specific new technologies, but creating and maintaining an optimized environment around them concerned us,” says Faisal Khalid, senior vice president of Technology Solutions at Inovalon. “For example, our distributed database technology is very network sensitive, and we need to build clusters for certain clients that have 90-plus or 100-plus nodes each. We wanted the ability to scale those clusters across racks to achieve linear performance scaling, which often leads to latency.”

Their cloud infrastructure uses Cisco UCS Director and ACI to configure and secure the compute, network and storage resources employed to onboard new customers – in half the time it did before.

In the figure, the application profile depicted helps visualize how one can provision a secure, isolated instance of the client’s customer records with an instance of the analytics application. Cisco ACI is used to create profiles and policies for their big data solutions, automating the configuration of firewalls, load balancers, and security appliances in and around the application’s end points. In effect, the automation and orchestration creates the effect of a logical converged infrastructure – but at data center scale with flexible options for expanding compute and storage independently.  This automated process can be repeated for each and every new client.

“We took advantage of the application profiles that were created for the big data solutions in our Reston data center and used them to automate the deployment of our Phoenix data center,” Khalid explains. “We also added dozens of new corporate application services, and we did it all
 in the same amount of time and with the same number of people that were involved in the rollout at Reston.”

The data centers weren’t just fast to deploy. They were also easy to expand and manage.

“We quickly refreshed our data center technology and tripled our capacity, including more than 50 new racks, without having to add engineering
 or operations staff,” Khalid notes. “And we can expand capacity for our clients on demand through a pay-as-you-grow arrangement with Dell EMC.”

So this is what it means to digitally transform operations.

  • Onboard new customers in half the time.
  • Triple the infrastructure with the same IT staff.
  • Scale the business with agility, flexibility, with security and compliance.

I focused on the enabling technology and business outcomes Inovalon shared with us.  But it is important to recognize that the data center infrastructure (compute, network, services, storage) had to be delivered to Inovalon’s requirements and on schedule.  Dell EMC and Cisco Advanced Services work together to accomplish that for these Vscale architecture solutions. To learn more about that I refer you to the case study and these references:

ACI Customer Case Study: Inovalon pushes healthcare value with Vscale Architecture

Unleashing IT magazine article Big data analytics driving healthcare transformation.

Vscale Architecture, visit: www.dellemc.com/vscale-architecture

Converged infrastructure, visit: www.cisco.com/go/vblock

Cisco ACI policy- driven automation, visit: www.cisco.com/go/aci

Video: “Cisco and Dell EMC innovation and collaboration for Vscale with ACI” with Yousuf Khan, VP Technical Marketing for Insieme Networks at  Cisco Systems.


Blog: Dell EMC and Cisco Joint Innovation Drives IT Transformation through Greater Simplicity

Special thanks to Robert Borys at Inovalon for his insights for the case study.


Harry Petty


Data Center and Cloud Marketing