Azure cloud support shock for Texas healthcare provider

When a large care provider decided to move to the cloud offering of its on-premise software provider, it received a nasty shock.
Written by Drew Turney, Contributor

Creative Solutions in Healthcare (CSH) came up against a cloud service challenge few of us expect to face. CIO Shawn Wiora describes the company as a 'Microsoft shop', so it seemed a natural progression to use Microsoft Azure when trying a cloud solution.

We've all lived in the real world long enough to expect cross-platform issues to strike when using different providers — 'it's not us, it's them' is a common refrain in IT. But to be told Microsoft Azure didn't support Microsoft's own Exchange application, left Wiora's team, "befuddled and frustrated".

Creative Solutions in Healthcare CIO, Shawn Wiora

"We asked them for a case study and documentation indicating [self-managed] Exchange could be supported on Azure. They gave us neither, and wouldn't confirm that their Azure team would support a trouble ticket for Azure servers running Exchange," he said.

"Their words were 'while it is legally and technically feasible, Microsoft has chosen not to provide support for such a configuration at this time and has documented this.' We backed out of an agreement on Azure, costing us $30,000 in losses, delays, and increased risks."

The Fort Worth, Texas-based company owns and operates over 60 senior care and nursing home facilities and employs over 6,000 staff. Wiora knew cloud was the future when it came to developing, testing, and deploying projects on an as-needs basis, so since December 2013 CSH has been using VMware vCloud Hybrid Service for burst capabilities and extra capacity for testing and development.

According to Wiora, it's saved considerable capital expenditure as it lets he and his team spin projects up faster.

"We were an all-physical environment," he explained, "and when you go from physical to virtual you want to make sure you do it right."

The priority criteria in selecting the right provider, Wiora said, included reliability, time to get up and running, the provider, efficiencies to be derived from being in the cloud, backup capabilities, and support both during and following the transition.

Now, Wiora says he couldn't love cloud computing more.

"The ramp up was fast and the support was tremendous," he said. "We're highly regulated, with a number of state and federal regulations we have to adhere to. VMware met our requirements from a compliance point of view and acknowledged our security needs in the business agreement."

After the Microsoft issue, Wiora adds VMware's service team got CSH back on track quickly.

"We're looking at projects like mobility, compliance, additional security, and the ability to light up new applications very quickly, and a hybrid cloud has been a total game-changer for us," he said. "We can bring applications online and redeploy them at a third of what it used to cost."

Key to any successful cloud procurement, said Wiora, is to involve all stakeholders in a decision workflow. He's highly focused on having his team come to a consensus about which provider is the best, and arming them with the best information to make a decision means documenting everything to leave no stone unturned.

VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) has been what Wiora calls both a tool and culture match for his organisation.

"A good IT department feels good about the services they provide," he said. "vCHS helps us achieve that level of success."

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