Tivoli tames healthcare net

The travel costs his IT department was paying to put out network fires were giving Integris Health Inc. CIO Avery Cloud a sick feeling.

As CIO, Cloud strives to provide the nonprofit healthcare organization’s 10,000 employees with 100 per cent network availability across its 15 hospitals and dozens of primary care clinics statewide. But after reviewing the travel and training costs racked up by the 180-person IT staff, Cloud realized much of his budget was being spent on chasing down network problems across the state.

“We were sending people all over to troubleshoot network problems every time there was a minor glitch at a member site,” Cloud says. Integris Health’s headquarters are in Oklahoma City, but it has hospitals and clinics all over the state. To add to the confusion, each hospital had its own network, and IT staff often needed extensive training to get up to speed on the disparate systems.

Cloud wanted to monitor and automate as much work as possible at Oklahoma’s second largest corporation. He needed to upgrade all the systems with new management software that would let the company monitor and control users from a single point. But Cloud says he still had his doubts one software vendor could meet all his requirements.

“It’s always been a pet peeve of mine that vendors only offered specialized tools in specialized areas,” Cloud says. He had been using Hewlett-Packard’s OpenView software for network management and Peregrine help desk products, but he wanted one integrated product set from one vendor.

Enter Tivoli Systems Inc. Tivoli’s family of products – including a software distribution, remote monitoring and inventory control packages – not only helps Cloud’s staff spot problems on the network, but helped the network team refine some processes with their department. For example, provisioning a new desktop caused IT staff and users many headaches.

“Our PC rollout process was a mess. I had complaints from users that it took four months to get a desktop ordered, installed and running,” Cloud says. “With the Tivoli software in place, we’ve reduced that to no more than five days at the absolute most.”

Cloud had long been familiar with software from the Austin, Tex., IBM subsidiary, but “in all honesty, I didn’t think we could afford it,” he says. A little research on Tivoli competitors Computer Associates International Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. – and a lot of meetings with Tivoli – proved him wrong.

“When we did our research we found Tivoli to be in the best product in terms of my vision for an integrated tool set,” Cloud says. Tivoli also eased Cloud’s money worries by offering its software and services at a discounted rate, which he would not disclose.

In the past, IT staff at headquarters couldn’t be certain of what users had installed on PCs until they visited a site. Now Integris IT staff can track how many desktops each location has and have new desktops shipped to remote sites with software installed. Integris can also update the software remotely using Tivoli Inventory, Tivoli Remote Control and Tivoli Software Distribution software products.

Tivoli Inventory software places an agent on each managed device and reports to Integris’ net managers what software is installed on a remote PC, how much memory is used and/or available, and what applications the PC user accesses. Tivoli Remote Control gives the net manager the ability to activate the agent from any location at any time. And Tivoli Software Distribution lets users push software out to several PCs over the LAN or WAN without manually going from desktop to desktop.

Integris’ network includes more than 100 servers and 3,500 desktops made up of a mix of IBM, AIX, Compaq VMS and Microsoft Windows NT. Integris Health has FDDI Ring with 10/100 at the headquarters and 10/100 Ethernet in remote offices. They plan to move to Gigabit Ethernet in the future. The healthcare network also supports 200 unique applications and multiple Oracle databases and Microsoft Exchange servers. Tivoli management agents are installed on every remote server, database and desktop.

The company also deployed Tivoli Manager for Oracle Corp., which provides monitoring and automated response to failures on the healthcare system’s Oracle databases. Tivoli Manager for Exchange configures and manages the firm’s Exchange e-mail operations.

Taking in, displaying and providing one point of control is Tivoli Enterprise Console. Cloud uses the Tivoli Enterprise Console to view information collected from workstations in Oklahoma City and from remote locations that are connected to the headquarters via T-1 lines. Tivoli Distributed Monitoring is used to track the availability of managed network devices. The Tivoli Remote Control, Tivoli Inventory and Tivoli Software Distribution tools ensure all desktops run the same version of software, and the help desk staff can access this information and solve problems remotely.

Ultimately Cloud estimates the centralized management of remote desktops will reduce the number of help desk calls by 50 per cent. With help desk wait time reduced, Cloud says staff productivity will increase by 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

Although he wouldn’t quantify the savings, Cloud says he’s saving money on paying higher salaries and training costs.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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