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VMware vCloud helps IT service provider deliver health care SaaS apps

IT service provider Press Ganey is using VMware's vCloud suite in its data center to deliver health care SaaS applications to its customers.

Preparing the data center to deliver private, hybrid or public cloud services can be daunting to an organization, no matter how much cloud computing experience it has. Choosing a service automation platform that can scale and mature with the cloud market is crucial.

Press Ganey Associates Inc. is enabling cloud computing with VMware vCloud. Greg Ericson, CIO of the South Bend, Ind.-based IT service provider that specializes in helping health care organizations improve patient experiences, discusses how vCloud is allowing his company to create, operate and manage Software as a Service (SaaS)-based products for its customers. VMware vCloud is integral to Press Ganey's delivery of virtualization, policy-based provisioning, disaster recovery and operations management on a common service automation platform.

What attracted Press Ganey to VMware vCloud for its data center environment, and why was it important to have software-defined data center architecture?

Ericson: We host about 300 terabytes of information and about 20 SaaS patient satisfaction, quality and safety, and clinical analytics applications that we offer to our customers. We wanted to go to a software-defined data center environment because there are several advantages. First, we had legacy systems we wanted to still use. We also knew we needed to have maximum flexibility, while also maximizing our asset utilization in order to transform from a database-centric architecture to a service-oriented architecture.

We wanted to have a platform that would allow us to scale [services] cost-effectively for our clients. We were already a VMware vSphere customer, and we started employing the full VMware vCloud suite of products last summer. Now, we are over 80% virtualized in our centralized data center.

How is VMware vCloud helping Press Ganey deliver health care SaaS applications to customers?

Ericson: We have one of the largest protected health information databases, and [vCloud] has allowed us to centralize our technology and manage it more effectively. We have been able to reallocate our resources, and even costs, to other areas that add more value to our customers.

When you think about network switches, storage and processing -- that in and of itself doesn't add value to our clients. What adds value is the insight and analytics that we can better provide around the patient experience, so it's important for us to be able to maximize our dollars toward insights that add that value for our customers.

More on health care SaaS

Is the new vCloud architecture saving Press Ganey any money?

Ericson: Most recently, we have been able to reallocate 50 TB of storage that had been ineffectively configured, thanks to the new technology. VCloud allows us to deliver our services to our customers more effectively while maximizing the assets within the organization. We can define the level of performance we are looking for in terms of availability and the speed of the storage, because vCloud gives us quick and sophisticated control over our environment. We can have environments delivered to our customers in hours, or even minutes now in some cases, where it used to take us about five days.

Have the implementation of VMware vCloud and the move toward a software-defined data center allowed Press Ganey to deliver anything new that couldn't be done before?

Ericson: I think that our customers have definitely noticed the faster speeds. One of our new services now is our ability to capture all of the patient information and report that back [to our customer], instead of a subset or sample of patient information and feedback. This technology allows us to scale quickly and allows for us to deliver our existing [health care SaaS] applications faster. As we continue to refresh our [VMware] technology, we'll be able to address performance in very cost-effective way.

What is the long-term strategy for Press Ganey with VMware vCloud?

Ericson: With the vCloud base in place, we have the flexibility to allocate power and resources to the applications as needed. As we adopt vCloud updates, we envision being able to connect to external cloud or hypervisors.

We are a complete private cloud environment right now, but we've configured our architecture with vCloud so that as the industry matures and we begin working with third-party cloud providers, our data is secure. We think a hybrid environment is the future, and we want to position ourselves to be ready.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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