The IT department at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is responsible for deploying and hosting medical and business software for the whole of the organisation. With only five people on the team, it is often under pressure to get applications up and running in short timescales. By deploying the Windows Server® 2008 operating system with Hyper-V™ virtualisation technology, new applications can be deployed in a matter of days.
One of the world’s leading centres for the treatment of ophthalmic conditions, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust performs more than 23,000 operations a year—from simple cataract procedures to addressing rarer and more complex disorders.
Like any modern hospital, Moorfields relies on the information systems that support both medical and business processes. From billing systems to the latest optometry applications, IT plays a critical role in the treatment of patients and the day-to-day management of a busy, professional organisation.
The IT department at Moorfields faces similar budgetary restraints as its peers in the public sector. This led Steven Gill, IT Infrastructure Support Manager at Moorfields, to identify new technologies that would enable his team to deliver more for less to internal customers.
Gill says: “Different departments acquire new applications and then ask us to set up and host the software on our servers.” Nearly all these deployments have strict deadlines, but, until recently, Gill and his team could only move as quickly as their technology allowed. “In the past, we would typically set up a new server for each application. Getting the hardware signed off, deployed, and tested took a matter of months, which was frustrating for other parts of the organisation,” he says.
Virtualisation―where one physical server can be partitioned to run multiple applications―was the obvious choice. “It reduces the need for new hardware and potentially reduces the cost of management, power, and software licences,” says Gill. Moorfields had used VMware on two servers for a number of years to run low-level business applications. “But, until recently, software from virtualisation specialists was too expensive and complicated for us to deploy on a large scale,” he says.
The answer to this challenge became apparent at the start of 2008, when Microsoft launched Windows Server 2008. The latest version of the operating system includes integrated Hyper-V virtualisation technology as standard, removing the main barrier to widespread deployment.
Gill says: “The NHS licensing agreements with Microsoft are obviously attractive propositions for our organisation and makes using technologies like Hyper-V and System Center even more cost effective for us.”
Moorfields began by testing Hyper-V in beta and was so impressed that it decided to run the software for all new server deployments as and when they were required.
Gill and his team have also deployed a comprehensive set of management tools for this new environment. To control the virtual machines, they use Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, which provides a single console to monitor, optimise, and provision servers. “We can manage traditional physical servers alongside our virtual resources through one unified console. And it’s proved particularly valuable when it comes to migrating software from older servers to the virtualised environment,” says Gill.
Moorfields will benefit further as even more powerful hardware becomes available. “Soon, we will start deploying HP servers that can run up to 40 virtual machines,” says Gill. “In the coming months and years, we expect to move to an entirely virtualised environment.”
The IT department is also deploying increasingly sophisticated applications that run on the new system. “We have complete confidence in what is now a highly robust and reliable technology,” says Gill. “For example, we’ve just deployed an optometry system on Hyper-V in a fraction of the time required with a new physical server.”
The deployment of Microsoft virtualisation technology has transformed the way that the Moorfields IT team works with other hospital departments. Migrating to a virtualised environment has dramatically reduced costs and power consumption. At the same time, the team can deploy applications more quickly, including a state-of-the-art optometry system. This has raised the team’s profile and resulted in positive feedback from internal clients.
- Reduces cost of hardware by 90 per cent. Today, Moorfields has six physical servers partitioned into about 47 virtual machines. In other words, each new physical server is now doing the work of 10 of the previous servers. “The virtualised hardware environment costs about £8,000. To get the same capacity with the previous set up would have cost about £80,000. We’ve effectively cut our hardware costs by 90 per cent,” says Gill.
- Reduces energy bills by £10,000 a year. The IT department now runs six machines consuming about 1,800 watts. If the 47 virtual machines were running on separate physical servers, power consumption would be eight times greater or about 14,100 watts. This equates to a reduction in energy bills by £10,000 (U.S.$16,250) a year and a saving of 88 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
- Saves IT management time. Gill calculates that the IT team spent about 160 hours a year maintaining hardware, support contracts, firmware and drivers on physical servers. Using Hyper-V, the team saves more than 20 days a year.
- Simplifies administration. Using the System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 console, the IT team can quickly provision new virtual machines and migrate applications from the VMware platform to the Hyper-V environment.
- Increases business agility. Gill says: “In the past, it would have taken weeks or months to deploy an application server. Now, we can get most applications up and running within a few days or even the same day.”
- Provides secure testing for applications. “There’s no need to take a single physical server out of production to try out the latest versions of applications, as they’re easy to clone into a virtual environment,” says Gill. “This means we can significantly accelerate the deployment life cycle and deliver innovative solutions more rapidly.”
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