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Inovalon federates healthcare info into data lakes for analytics

Healthcare analytics firm Inovalon escapes a siloed approach by building hybrid cloud data lakes for petabytes of data with EMC Federation technology.

While data lakes is a vendor-driven term, customers are buying into the concept.

Joe Rostock, CTO of healthcare analytics firm Inovalon, said he prefers a different term but he agrees with the strategy of handling his data as a massive connected pool rather than many silos.

Inovalon added EMC as a strategic vendor in 2014 for its data lakes strategy. The firm, based in Bowie, Md., uses products from all parts of the EMC Federation, which includes VMware, Pivotal and RSA.

The products include Isilon storage for unstructured data; XtremIO flash arrays for performance-driven analytics; Data Domain, Avamar and RecoverPoint for data protection; VMware's cloud technology; Pivotal Big Data Suite for database analytics; and RSA security.

Inovalon provides analytics for healthcare companies, often in real time. It stores and manages more than 9 billion records through a hybrid cloud setup.

Rostock said Inovalon stores "any type of healthcare data you can think of," ranging from images of medical tests to patient billing records.

"We've always thought of our data and data in motion as a data fabric," Rostock said. "It really is a fabric of solutions. I prefer the term fabric, but the more contemporary term is data lakes.''

Inovalon's data lakes strategy involves turning petabytes of proprietary information into intelligent data.

"The problem we had to solve was managing that volume of data more effectively and in a streamlined way," Rostock said. "The migration from data silos is really the anchor for how we approach that. Where we would have a data silo focused on a given product line, we now think of it as one contiguous set of data elements that we can derive a lot more value from. We need to get the kinds of performance from our products that we couldn't get as long as they were siloed."

Walgreen's pharmacy chain is an Inovalon client, and a good example of how the company has to process data.

"We have data coming in from Walgreen's clinical assessments," Rostock said. "The faster we can process that data and derive a result from it and redistribute it back to a health plan, back to Walgreen's and back to the [patient], the more effective our solution and the greater impact we have on the marketplace."

Multiply that by hundreds of clients -- including healthcare plans, hospitals, doctors and researchers -- and you get an idea of the scale of Inovalon's data.

"We have billions of medical events that we have to process for millions of patients," Rostock said. "We don't only support one health plan, we supported all of the largest plans. We benefit from having more streamlined platform designs."

Rostock said his company remains flexible about its storage and other IT products. EMC is not Inovalon's only vendor, and the company is always open to using the best available products.

"We collaborate closely with all of our vendors for the best-of-breed solutions, but we don't look at it as one-size-fits-all or take anything we can get from any one vendor," he said. "We have a laser focus on getting the pieces we need."

Next Steps

Understanding data lakes and how they work

EMC explains the concept of data lakes at EMC World 2014

Hadoop vendors push the data lake approach

Dig Deeper on Storage management and analytics

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