HCA - Information Technology & Services, Inc. (HCA IT&S) is the IT arm of HCA, which operates hospitals and surgery centers across the United States and England. With electronic systems playing an increasingly important role in healthcare, HCA
IT&S wanted to accelerate its adoption of new technologies and improve IT efficiency and agility. It participated in the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program for the Windows Server 2012 operating system to get an early look at new features and to strengthen
its relationship with Microsoft. HCA IT&S is also exploring the use of Microsoft System Center 2012 to automate administrative tasks in its data centers. By working more strategically with Microsoft to gain early insight into new products, HCA IT&S can deploy
solutions faster. Greater efficiency and a more strategic mindset will also help the IT staff respond faster to business needs.
At its founding in 1968, Nashville, Tennessee–based HCA was one of the country’s first hospital companies. Today, it is a leading provider of healthcare services in the United States, with 162 hospitals and 113 freestanding surgery centers throughout
20 US states and England. HCA estimates that 4 to 5 percent of all inpatient care delivered in the United States is provided by HCA facilities.
||There are major improvements in Windows Server 2012 automation that will improve the efficiency with which we can manage our data centers.
| Charlie Butler
Enterprise Architect, HCA IT&S
HCA - Information Technology & Services, Inc. (HCA IT&S), is an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of HCA and provides IT services for HCA. In its data centers, HCA IT&S maintains about 7,000 servers running the Windows operating system. The company made this
large server environment more efficient by virtualizing about 80 percent of its servers using VMware software. However, many of the servers ran older versions of the Windows operating system and other key applications. With electronic systems such as electronic
medical records systems becoming more prevalent and important in healthcare, HCA IT&S knew that it needed to upgrade its infrastructure and speed its adoption of new technology.
When it comes to new technology, healthcare organizations tend to be conservative in their adoption. However, HCA recognizes the need to accelerate new technology adoption. Also, as an organization, HCA IT&S is working to simplify IT and focus more on business
drivers. One of the core tenants in the company’s “Simplify IT” strategy is to focus on automating processes and upgrading data center infrastructure. “This will allow our staff to focus on business needs and free up time to research and deploy solutions that
will benefit our employees and patients,” says Charlie Butler, Enterprise Architect at HCA IT&S. “We wanted more powerful automation tools that would let the IT staff focus on managing a data center rather than managing individual servers.”
In May 2012, HCA IT&S decided to participate in the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) for the Windows Server 2012 operating system. “We wanted to become more familiar with the new technologies in Windows Server 2012, but we also wanted to figure
out how to relate to a vendor as a partner,” says Butler. “We wanted the chance to provide early feedback on what could be a critical product for us and think more strategically about how we were using Microsoft products.”
||We wanted more powerful automation tools that would let the IT staff focus on managing a data center rather than managing individual servers.
| Charlie Butler
HCA IT&S also learned about Microsoft System Center 2012, a complete data center management solution, and was interested in exploring the potential to automate more of its data center administrative activities, such as virtual machine provisioning. Joining
the Windows Server 2012 RDP was the first step in exploring increased automation at the operating system level.
After joining the RDP, HCA IT&S worked with Microsoft Services Consulting to build a two-node Windows Server 2012 cluster in a lab environment as a proof of concept. It used the Hyper-V technology in Windows Server 2012 to configure several virtual machines
on the host servers. It also used a third standalone computer to test the Hyper-V Replica feature of Windows Server 2012.
“Our engagement with Microsoft Services was very successful,” says Philip Best, Architect in HCA IT&S. “During the RDP, we were able to interact with Microsoft consultants to gain a high level of comfort and understanding of Windows Server 2012 and its capabilities.”
Even when it paired Windows Server 2012 with older HP ProLiant DL380 servers, HCA IT&S experienced no driver issues. HCA IT&S engineers were able to engage with Microsoft consultant and be very proactive in identifying areas that were unique to healthcare
During the RDP, HCA IT&S tested a number of Windows Server 2012 features related to high availability, workload mobility, virtualized networking, and manageability:
Hyper-V Replica and “shared nothing” live migration. Hyper-V Replica provides asynchronous replication of virtual machines between storage systems, clusters, and data centers over two sites to provide business continuity. “Shared nothing”
live migration provides the ability to migrate a virtual machine from one Hyper-V host to another host that isn’t part of the same cluster, shares no storage, and has only a gigabit Ethernet connection to the first virtual machine.
“Hyper-V Replica and ‘shared nothing’ live migration will provide an immediate benefit to the company from a workload management and migration perspective,” Best says.
Hyper-V live migration. Hyper-V live migration enables data center administrators to migrate running virtual machines between host servers without downtime. “This feature, like the others, provides the same functionality that we now have
with VMware,” says Best.
Data deduplication. Data deduplication finds and removes duplicate data without compromising data integrity. HCA IT&S can use data deduplication to reduce disk space needed for large files and directories, thereby reducing storage costs.
“Data deduplication is a capability that we don’t have in VMware, as is ‘shared-nothing’ live migration,” Best says.
Network Interface Card (NIC) Teaming and Network Virtualization. NIC Teaming provides the benefit of network fault tolerance on physical servers and virtual machines by using at least two network adapters by any vendor, without the need
for a third-party teaming solution. Hyper-V Network Virtualization isolates network traffic of different customers or business groups on a shared infrastructure without using virtual local area networks. “These network virtualization features have potential
for us in the areas of firewalls, load balancing, and filtering at the virtual switch level,” says Best.
Management improvements. In Windows Server 2012, the Windows PowerShell command-line interface and scripting language has been expanded to enable command-line management of more data center elements: servers, network, and storage. HCA IT&S
plans to use Windows PowerShell extensively and is exploring System Center 2012 to automate administrative tasks in its data centers. “Solutions like System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager make it very easy to manage two hypervisors from one console.”
By upgrading to Windows Server 2012, HCA IT&S can greatly improve its overall IT efficiency by automating more functions and managing its data center at a higher level of abstraction. By increasing IT efficiency and working more strategically with vendors
such as Microsoft, HCA IT&S can respond faster to business needs and help the business respond faster to market and customer needs.
Dramatically Improve IT Efficiency
||Hyper-V Replica and ‘shared nothing’ live migration will provide an immediate benefit to the company from a workload management and migration perspective.”
| Philip Best
Architect, HCA IT&S
Butler sees the enhancements to Windows PowerShell and the extensive automation and management capabilities in solutions like System Center 2012 as time savers in HCA data centers. “There are major improvements in Windows Server 2012 automation that
will improve the efficiency with which we can manage our data centers,” Butler says.
As an example, when the HCA IT&S staff needs to implement a data center configuration change, it can potentially reduce resource coordination and testing to a few hours by writing a Windows PowerShell workflow that can execute at night, without taking servers
“We will reduce the time spent at a keyboard interacting with individual servers,” Best says. “Instead, our staff will interact with several thousand servers at once.”
Gain More Strategic Relationship with Vendors
By participating in the Windows Server 2012 RDP, HCA IT&S gained valuable experience in partnering with a key vendor, evaluating a critical product early in development, and thinking about technology more strategically.
“The Windows Server 2012 RDP provided a great way to engage with Microsoft more as a partner and helped build the strategic relationship,” Butler says. “Our engineers that worked on the RDP have been able to engage in the role of early adopter and get an
in-depth understanding of Windows Server 2012 that will be beneficial to the organization as a whole.”
Speed Response to Business Needs
The faster the IT organization can adopt new technologies and the more efficient it can be, the faster it can respond to the needs of the business—and the faster the business can respond to changing market needs.
“The business needs to be able to change frequently, but IT needs stability and reliability,” Best says. “Windows Server 2012 will help us meet both goals.”
Best adds that automating tasks by using Windows PowerShell will make rapid yet well-documented change possible. The IT staff can create a solution for one area, such as storage provisioning, and use that same solution in other areas, such as network provisioning,
with few changes. This reuse will help the staff be far more efficient.
Windows Server 2012
Windows Server drives many of the world’s largest data centers, empowers small businesses around the world, and delivers value to organizations of all sizes in between. Building on this legacy, Windows Server 2012 redefines the category, delivering hundreds
of new features and enhancements that span virtualization, networking, storage, user experience, cloud computing, automation, and more. Simply put, Windows Server 2012 helps you transform your IT operations to reduce costs and deliver a whole new level of
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