Software Engineering Manager
Massachusetts General Brigham (MGB)
MGB migrates to MySQL Enterprise Edition to benefit from improved backup and monitoring as well as expert support for healthcare services.
Introduction & Background
Mass General Brigham - or Massachusetts General Brigham, MGB - is a Boston-based nonprofit conglomeration of 16 hospitals and healthcare institutions that cares for 1.5 million patients annually and employs over 78,000 people. The organization was founded by the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women's Hospital.
MGB is an integrated healthcare system that unites two academic medical centers, several community and specialty hospitals, a health insurance plan, a physician network, community health centers, home care services, and long-term care services. In addition, they are also a leader in biomedical research and a Harvard Medical School affiliate, providing support to bring up the next generation of doctors, clinical personnel, health professionals, and researchers.
MGB's recent expansion has divided employees' responsibilities into two major groups. On the clinical side, lifesaving treatments are provided in the hospital itself, while the second direction represents the active research conducted through scientific studies and clinical trials that are initiated internally, externally, or sponsored by the United States' National Institutes of Health (NIH).
MGB's Enterprise Research Applications Team is responsible for providing services in the area of data collection for clinical trials, studies, and patient surveys. They collect information using the open-source tool REDCap and format it for collaborative data analysis purposes to fit the delivery model of MGB's institutions and research groups.
Business Challenges & Goals
MGB has been running MySQL Community Edition for more than six years before they decided it was time for an upgrade to cope with the massive data growth as well as demands for more security and performance in their IT environment. Among the main challenges they faced prior to finding a solution for their increased data influx and system instability were the expert support they needed to manage an accelerated growth.
The monitoring and auditing tools necessary for maintaining the growing databases were also among their requirements. MGB tried several solutions but ended up with a high volume of unstructured email notifications, reporting hundreds of issues at a time.
MGB needed an enterprise level database solution that would offer increased uptime and allow them to run research projects smoothly, including faster backup and recovery times in case of failure. "One of the biggest pain points that we had was that our backup processes were taking an extremely long time to run. We realized that in a case of hardware failure, it would take us very long to recover to a point in time," said Dimitar Dimitrov.
Business Results & Metrics
MGB switched to MySQL Enterprise Edition as their databases were becoming critical to efficiently maintaining business operations. The migration helped MGB solve their challenges by offering additional tooling, specifically the enterprise level automated backup and recovery, advanced monitoring features, and the support of the MySQL team of experts through Oracle Premier Support.
For backup and recovery, MGB employs a two-tier approach which includes a full backup every week and incremental daily backups. This allows the organization to recover to any specific point in time very quickly. "If we did not go with an enterprise solution, our daily backup would have taken 2 to 3 hours to complete, but only if you use a very powerful machine. To bring the system back to life and reconstitute the data in case of a disaster would have taken 24 hours. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were able to recover to production-ready status within 2 hours only. And that involved the migration of the data from the backup location to a new production server," Dimitar Dimitrov mentioned.
Combining MySQL Enterprise Monitor and MySQL Workbench, the messages generated by the monitoring system are now sent to the right people who take the necessary actions faster than the overwhelmed on-premises infrastructure team. This helps MGB to administer the IT environment smoothly and have enhanced visibility into the performance of their databases. "It lets us see the nodes of our replicated environment more easily. It provides a graphical user interface, where we can see the number of queries that are taking place at any moment, as well as the status of the error logs," Dimitar Dimitrov said.
The ability to reach the MySQL Support Team directly in case of problems or slowdowns was also a big plus for MGB. In addition, the organization's IT team receives performance tuning suggestions from MySQL on a regular basis. "The fact that we can actually reach out to the MySQL Support Team and have our questions answered by a MySQL engineer at a priority level was extremely beneficial for us," concluded Dimitar Dimitrov.
MGB has also been using MySQL Enterprise Audit for generating activity logs and tracing user actions while experimenting with Transparent Data Encryption for automatically encrypting the physical files of their databases.
Why MySQL Enterprise Edition
MGB's choice of MySQL Enterprise Edition was driven by their former experience with MySQL Community Edition as well as by its advanced set of features, security enhancements, and the technical support behind it. Compared to other solutions on the market, MySQL Enterprise Edition also best supported MGB's REDCap app used for data collection.
The migration to MySQL Enterprise Edition was conducted internally by MGB's IT team with no external technical help.
MGB is currently looking to upgrade to MySQL Enterprise Edition 8.0 to leverage all the new security features. The company is also interested in moving part of their footprint to the cloud to be able to maintain the safety of their data in case of a natural event like an earthquake disrupting operations at their two data centers.