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Such a large-scale application deployment would monopolize IT staff time -- time that could be better spent on other activities such as development projects. In addition, the faster the health care clinic could deploy users and applications, the better it would be for patients.
Carilion is a large nonprofit health care system based in Roanoke, Va. Founded in 1899 as the Roanoke Memorial Hospital, the company now owns and operates eight hospitals and dozens of physician clinics in a 600-square-mile area and is the largest employer in the Roanoke Valley. But with size came problems, and IT department needed to be able to make changes to its systems more seamlessly.
"We wanted seamless integration across multiple lines so that you can manage patients on a timely basis," said Kendall White, senior director of technical services at Carilion. "You can schedule an MRI in an ambulatory center. The idea is to more quickly respond to the patient's needs."
Once White and his staff found the right software from Epic Systems – to accomplish that goal, they had to figure out how to deploy it to 150 users at the clinic -- without late nights and long weekends spent installing applications manually onto individual Citrix servers.
"We needed the flexibility to bring new servers online, repurpose servers and, really, to do it quickly," White said.
The challenge of a large software deployment is not unique to Carilion, of course. Analyst Jean Bozman at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC said that many IT organizations are now struggling with people costs as much as they are with purchasing decisions.
"The focus for a number of years was on capital expenditures," she said. "Then people realized that they weren't fully utilizing the hardware they already had, so the focus went to operating costs. [The question became], 'How can I be more efficient in what I'm doing?'"Role-based server deployment
Enter Scalent Systems Inc.. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based software company can assist in server deployment by helping its customers build a software stack -- including the operating system and applications -- to sit protected on a network. White referred to this stack as a "pristine image." Depending on the applications a particular type of employee needs, the company can build a variety of server images; so, for example, a call-center employee would have a different image from that of an office adminstrator. Scalent's customers can then deploy these images on bare-metal or virtualized x86- or Sparc-based Windows or Linux servers.
"When we need to go in and start to ramp up, if we need to bring 10 new Citrix boxes online, we can do that from an automated perspective," White said. "Rather than an engineer going to each individual box, we have a pristine image we can deploy."
Scalent isn't the only company that has developed this kind of technology. White also looked at Altiris, Ardence and Egenera, but Scalent was the only one willing to do a proof of concept on Carilion's current ambulatory ER system. So Carilion got a contract, and the project began earlier this year. White said Carilion is more than one-third of the way through the process.
"They're allowing you to re-provision a virtual server very quickly -- within five minutes," Bozman said. "There is a bit of a role thing there, where you're deploying different types of services for different kinds of employees: This kind of employee needs these kinds of applications."
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.