Dell buys Big Blue-based health cloud piccy firm

Love the service, hate the hardware

Dell is buying InSite One, a SaaS (Storage-as-a-Service) for the US health market, and getting a cloud storage services platform extensible to other markets.

Dell already has its UCA (Unified Clinical Archive) product, which it plugs as a way for healthcare organisations to archive PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) and patient data on a single storage platform so that it can be shared by health professionals and so avoid the endless paper file shuffle between hospital departments.

The InSite One service goes further as it involves off-premise storage of health data, stored as objects in tier-4, data warehousing centres with geographically-dispersed mirror archiving and encryption – reassuring health professionals that their sensitive patient data files, X-rays and scanned images will be held safely and securely, yet can be shared and exchanged.

The preferred supplier of servers and storage to InSite One's data centres is IBM, with a deal being signed in April 2009 for the supply of System x Servers and, wait for it, DS3200 storage arrays. These products were then going to replace the existing kit in InSite One's data centres with the agreement, which included IBM selling its kit in tandem with InSite One selling its products services to customers, worth $15m – IBM's sales rep must have been chortling with glee – and more than 1PB of IBM storage being purchased.

InSite One was started in 1999, and has built up a customer base of hundreds, including large and small hospitals, physicians' practices, imaging centres and radiology departments around the USA. According to a statement it "currently manages nearly 55 million clinical studies, more than 3.6 billion medical images and supports almost 800 clinical sites."  There is a distribution agreement with Xeikona Medical Solutions of Johannesburg, South Africa, InSite One's first international agreement, which was announced in November.

It says its vendor-neutral InDex archive has a patented design with an open architecture and is based on industry standards. InSite One claims it will easily integrate with other applications and "many major manufacturers and distributors of imaging technology products and PACS incorporate InSite One services as components in their enterprise-wide [offerings]". InSite One offers both on-premise and off-premise versions of its offerings.

The openness of InDex means Dell reckons it can be extended to other vertical markets. Dell is buying what it sees as a medical image cloud-archiving success story, which it can readily combine with its UCA offering to give it bright, shiny successful SaaS teeth that can be used to bite Dell's way into other vertical SaaS markets. Dell could also expand the InSite One SaaS cloud outside the USA and thus cause competitive trouble for health data storage product and service suppliers such as the UK's BridgeHead

Interestingly, Dell is reselling Bridgehead's BH MediStore and BH OfficeStore PACS software with its DX6000 object storage array. Back in September when this deal was announced, Dell's enterprise storage marketing lead guy, Brett Roscoe, said Bridgehead's software led the medical archive industry. Dell certified the InDex software on the DX6000 in September too by the way.

There are potential developments here, with the DX6000 becoming the storage platform for the InSite One archive, and InSite One's software being extended to support UK and potentially other European country health data storage requirements.

The medical archive industry is booming in terms of data growth. Dell, quoting ESG Research, says "medical image data in North America alone is projected to grow more than 35 per cent annually to reach nearly 2.6 million terabytes by 2014 [nearly 2.6EB].  The potential proliferation of disconnected information repositories presents an additional challenge."

Dell inherits a data centre estate full of IBM System x Servers and DS3200 arrays and the prospect of replacing them with, what? It could use its newly-acquired Compellent Storage Center or its DX6000s. That will be an interesting decision.

The amount Dell is paying hasn't been revealed but is sure to be a nice Christmas present for InSite One's backers. After an initial funding round of $3m in 2000, InSite One has kept schtum on any further funding, although the venture capital roster count is known to have grown. We reckon (Vulture Central Financial Wizards Inc that is) that Dell is spending $50m – $100m, possibly more, to get its hands on InSite One. Happy Christmas guys! ®

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