Regis Aged Care brings new life to ageing datacentre

As Australia's ageing population continues to grow, Regis Aged Care realised it required an IT infrastructure that would be able to offer superior service to its 45 aged care facilities across Australia.

As a provider of 45 aged care facilities that are home to nearly 500 residences across Australia, Regis Aged Care realised it could not afford to relive the incident that occurred three years ago when its IT system was down for three days.

Up until August last year, before it realised its disaster recovery (DR) capability was in need of an upgrade, Regis Aged Care operated a single datacentre located in Port Melbourne. The company had initially drafted plans to replace its datacentre with a passive DR capability in the basement of one of its Melbourne facilities.

However for Regis Aged Care CIO David Thompson, the draft plan raised concerns, which eventually led the company to look at an active-active datacentre approach, as based on financial net value calculations it was going to cost the business only an extra AU$30,000 over five years to have an active-active strategy.

"One was it wasn't a fit-for-purpose space; it was just a room in the basement. But a basement itself is always a concern because flooding is a worry, it wasn't set up with environmentals, it didn't have any three phase power, no raised floors, and it was a fairly small space to the point where I could see within three years we'd be looking to start all over again," he said.

The benefits of an active-active strategy on the other hand were clearly evident, according to Thompson, and with that in mind Regis Aged Care partnered with EMC for its VPlex solution, which went live early January this year.

"The appeal was that recovery time is 15-minutes with an active-active, and you're back up and running with no data loss. The second consideration was you get significant compute power available just for day to day use, so it gives you a level of headroom that you wouldn't get with a passive setup," he said.

Thompson admitted the task of building a datacentre was a "significant one", and required the company to upgrade its SAN capability, prepare a cutover plan, as well as ensure change management communication was done so effectively.

To minimise risks to every day operations at its facilities such as clinical management, rostering, and food ordering, the company tested up to a point where they were "just making changes to the switching and the network LAN to make it all happen".

"A lot of the risk was taken out because we knew the datacentre was operating, it was just the case of turning it on. The data was syncing between the two SANs a day or two before ... so it was a big undertaking but we minimised the amount of effort involved, and therefore the risks," Thompson said.

But the real challenge, which Thompson described as "almost a project in its own right", was gaining confidence from senior management about undertaking the project.

"They were very nervous about this. The communication about cutover and change management plan was a detail designed document. We had to give senior management a level of comfort," he said.

"It was a quantum leap in terms of the way the applications owners saw this too. They took a while to get on board. They didn't understand how this was going to work, and what the benefits were."

The project, which came in 10 percent under the AU$1 million budget, improved system stability and uptime from 98 percent to 99.9 percent, Thompson said.

"We've seen far greater availability in the systems and the business does really notice it. Previously, we were up and down like yoyos. Some of these things were knock on effects but there's no doubt our uptime and overall applications service delivery has improved by an order of magnitude."