One of the seven districts of the Canton of Fribourg in Switzerland, La Sarine district is home to around 100,000 people. As in other parts of Switzerland, the elderly population of La Sarine is growing rapidly — creating new and complex healthcare demands on public health organizations in the area.
To tackle these challenges, the Canton of Fribourg founded La Sarine Health Network in 2015. Uniting 12 publicly funded healthcare organizations across La Sarine district, La Sarine Health Network provides a wide range of specialist care services: including residential care, homecare, emergency ambulances, and community transport services for people with disabilities.
Rémi Goyer, CIO at La Sarine Health Network, explains: “One of the major objectives for La Sarine Health Network in the coming years is effectively serving the growing number of people aged 80 and over in the community. Most elderly people in the area are in relatively good health, and don't wish to leave their homes — so ensuring that we can ramp up our homecare services will be crucial to deliver high-quality experiences for citizens throughout the district.”
Like any modern healthcare organization, digital systems play a key role in La Sarine Health Network's service delivery. The organization depends on its IT platforms to drive its operations from end-to-end: from back-office administration, to booking appointments, to managing patient data.
Previously, La Sarine Health Network relied on two virtualized, standalone servers to support its digital services, physically hosted at the region's residential care center. Because each server used its own built-in storage, the organization was unable to rapidly move virtual workloads from one platform to another — reducing flexibility and increasing the risk of downtime in a disaster-recovery scenario. Crucially, the onboard storage was fast approaching capacity, with utilization of around 85% on each server.
“When I joined La Sarine Health Network, one of my immediate priorities was to increase the security, availability and scalability of our IT systems,” Goyer continues. “The goal was to create a platform that would support the long-term growth of our digital healthcare services — empowering our people to deliver a consistently high standard of care across the district.”
I estimate that we’re saving around 100 hours per year on storage-related tasks, which we can devote to value-added development activities for our healthcare user community.
CIO, La Sarine Health Network
Building a Future-Ready Storage Platform
La Sarine Health Network drew up its key criteria for a new storage solution. As well as setting out performance requirements such as input/output operations per second (IOPS), the organization targeted a virtualized platform that would offer quick and simple orchestration of storage as a single pool, allowing it to rapidly move workloads between servers and scale out its storage resources efficiently. Scalability was vital — the ultimate goal was to have a future-proof platform capable of consolidating the storage needs of all 12 establishments within the health network.
After issuing a request for proposals, La Sarine Health Network narrowed down the list of vendors to two contenders, including a solution from Hitachi Vantara delivered by technology partner EVOK. Rémi Goyer confirms: “For performance, we wanted an all-flash solution, and to keep our operational costs lean, we were keen to have at least three servers in direct double-attachment — avoiding the need for a separate SAN fibre switch. Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) F350 offered us all the capabilities we wanted, as well as a graphical management interface that I found extremely intuitive.”
Following a practical demonstration of Hitachi Vantara storage solutions at EVOK’s own data center, La Sarine Health Network decided to deploy VSP F350 as its new virtualized storage platform.
“The fact that EVOK uses and trusts Hitachi solutions to support its own managed services gave us great confidence that it would meet our needs,” says Goyer. “Plus we gained 20 TB of usable storage right from the outset, with the ability to scale out by a further 50 TB over the coming years in the same chassis.”
Rémi Goyer adds: “Deploying the Hitachi solution couldn’t have been simpler. On the day of our installation, I completed the final stages of the install myself without any difficulties. When the EVOK engineer checked our storage platform the next day, he told me that we were good to go without any changes.”
Adding Value for the Swiss Taxpayer
Since deploying Hitachi VSP F350, La Sarine Health Network has gained the performance, reliability, and scalability to grow its digital services and provide high-quality care to citizens across the district.
“In the past, I spent around 30 minutes per day managing on-board storage on our servers, but today that’s all changed,” comments Goyer. “With Hitachi infrastructure, there’s no need for me to touch anything — it just runs and runs. And with regular updates and support provided by experts from EVOK, we gain the peace of mind that our mission-critical platform is in safe hands.”
Goyer continues: “When we need to spin up a service, there’s no longer any stressing over storage utilization or maintenance. Using the embedded management tools in the VSP, we simply provision a new virtual server, connect it to the storage platform, and we’re up and running. I estimate that we’re saving around 100 hours per year on storage-related tasks, which we can devote to value-added development activities for our healthcare user community.”
Although its journey with the Hitachi solution is just beginning, La Sarine Health Network is confident that it has found the long-term platform it needs to take on their future challenges. Currently, the other 11 establishments within the organization run their IT and storage locally, in much the same way as Goyer’s team did before the adoption of the Hitachi solution. The opportunity for these other establishments is to reduce their IT costs and eliminate all the hassle of managing local equipment by consolidating to the new centralized environment. The economies of scale should allow for a significant reduction in costs, as well as enabling a single center of excellence for future investments.
“Our long-term vision is to create a high-availability configuration across two separate data centers, enabling us to switch our services over to a secondary site in the event of an issue with the primary environment,” concludes Goyer. “Ultimately, this industrialized, enterprise-class storage environment — backed by rock-solid service-level agreements — can provide better value to taxpayers across the district. Looking ahead, we’re keen to create economies of scale by acting as the central IT platform for all 12 health associations in the district and partnering with Hitachi and EVOK to realize that goal.”
EVOK is a specialist provider of IT maintenance and infrastructure management services, delivering efficient and reliable solutions to small and medium businesses across Switzerland.
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