IBM wins 'foundation' role for NZ health IT cloud

A deal announced between IBM and Health Benefits Ltd enables the consolidation of 40 datacentres down to just two.

New Zealand's National Infrastructure Platform (NIP) for health is moving to an IBM-managed cloud, enabling a massive consolidation of datacentre facilities in the sector.

Announced on Tuesday by government-owned Health Benefits Ltd (HBL) and IBM, the National Infrastructure Platform will host applications and systems that New Zealand's 20 district health boards (DHBs) use to deliver healthcare.

DHBs will migrate from 40 datacentres to just two IBM-managed facilities -- one in Auckland and the other in Christchurch.

The current datacentres vary in size, age, quality, and adherence to standards, IBM and HBL said in a statement. The two IBM-managed facilities will offer higher security classifications, better reliability, and higher service levels.

Fifteen DHBs have given conditional approval, with four (Northland, Auckland, and counties Manukau and Waitemata) agreeing to use the NIP already.

Director of the National Health IT Board Graeme Osborne said a number of IT outages at DHBs in the last two years had an impact on the smooth delivery of health services.

"The improved resilience and strengthened disaster recovery capabilities of NIP will reduce the risk of IT outages affecting the efficient operation of health services," he said.

Southern DHB chief executive Carole Heatly said patient care is paramount, and the clinical benefits of a more stable and secure IT platform could not be understated.

Last February, Southern DHB's systems were out of action for 36 hours due to human error and a lack of maintenance. An audit report found that the systems were exposed to significant risk.

The IBM solution will aggregate each DHB onto infrastructure as a service (IaaS) aligned to the Government ICT Strategy and Action Plan to 2017. That will allow DHBs to purchase their IT infrastructure on demand without maintaining and owning their own.

IBM was named the preferred supplier last May.

Rob Lee, IBM New Zealand's managing director, said a "best-of-breed team" of global and local partners had been assembled to deliver the project, including Computer Concepts Ltd, Racemi, and Vocus-owned FX Networks.

NIP is forecast to provide financial benefits of NZ$23.9 million total cost of ownership over 10 years across all DHBs.

The transition to NIP will start from mid-2015, and is expected to take three years.