Michael Heil, of Cone Health , was kind enough to take the time to explain why his company selected systems from Cisco. Cisco wanted me to speak with people who are actually using Unified Computing Systems (UCS) to learn more about why they selected Cisco systems rather than systems from another supplier.
Please introduce yourself and your organizationI’m Michael Heil, Manager of Technical Infrastructure for Cone Health. It is one the region’s largest and most comprehensive health networks. It has more than 100 locations, including five hospitals, two MedCenters, three urgent care centers, 55 physician practice sites and multiple centers of excellence. A broad selection of medical services are provided by more than 8,200 dedicated professionals, more than 1,000 physicians and 700 volunteers.
What are you doing that needed this type of technology?The healthcare organization has been building out new medical record systems for the last 18 to 20 months. Requirements are moving at an extremely rapid pace. I needed an extremely flexible back end system that would help me deal with unexpected and unplaned requirements as well as the day-to-day requirements we knew about.
The organization became very comfortable with virtualiztaion technology from VMware. We really understood how the technology could be useful. We were looking for systems that would allow us to make effective use of this technology.
What products did you consider before making a selection?We have historically been using 2-U rackmount Dell and HP servers. We were concerned about the the physical footprint of these systems and their supporting infrastructure.
We spent quite some time examining HP's Blade computing systems. The management structure of the HP solution was too complex. Each time a new layer of technology was added to the configuration, we were expected to adopt a new layer of management software as well. This seemed much to complex.
We were looking for scaleablity with a reduced number of management points. This lead us to Cisco's UCS.
Why did you select this product?Cone Health faced two tipping points that drove this decision. They were cost and the ability to move workloads to other blades or data centers.
The cost of scaling out the solutions offered by other suppliers included increments that required extensive and expensive expansion of I/O, Networking and other support products. Cisco's UCS offered a much more cost-effective growth path.
UCS supports service profiles, or the ability to extract the unique attributes of systems and move them into software. Because this has been abstracted into software, workloads can be moved from one blade to another with a simple reboot. This means that workloads based on VMware ESX, Windows and/or Linux can easily be brought up on a secondary blade or at another data center without requiring extensive reconfiguration of the software. This facilitates both expansion as the workload increases and disaster recovery.
What tangible benefits have you gotten through the use of this product?As a manager of staff and technology, I've seen a lot of tangible benefits.
One example is the nursing scheduling system. It was running on an older platform and needed to be upgraded to meet some regulatory requirements. Because we were running Cisco UCS we were able to easily build the new server immediately and order the blade later. When the blade arrived, it was simple to install it and boot up the pre-built image. This reduced the time and cost dramatically.
Another example is purchasing and installing a new VMware ESX server. It used to be a complex process to set up storage and networking. It could take up to three days to launch a new server. UCS makes it possible to pre-build the zones and storage ahead of time and launch it when the new hardware arrives. In one case, bringing up a new server hosting several virtual machines took only 4 hours rather the 3 days we had experienced before. One thing that stood out is that a single person can accomplish the task of building a system rather than requiring three people to deal with the same need.
What advice would you offer others?Implementing Cisco UCS along with VMware has helped us focus upon the goal of allowing us to be the most efficient in supporting our clients. This means meeting the changing needs of physicians, nurses and all of the staff of Cone Health. Everything we do needs to be focused on meeting those needs.
We're now working with a flexible computing environment that makes it very easy to address requests to expand or change an established computing environment.
Embrace virtualization and flexible approaches to IT is one suggestion. Thinking about those qualities should be top of mind for IT management. We found that Cisco UCS helped us deliver on those thoughts.