Florida Hospital Enhances IT Performance and Patient Care with Red Hat Virtualization Technology and Consulting

March 6, 2008

Customer: Florida Hospital

Industry: Healthcare
Geography: North America
Country: United States

Business Challenge:

Design a new disaster-recovery system that would ensure seamless business continuity for the hospital; determine a solution to aid in delivering high-performance, secure, cost-effective systems to ensure optimized patient care; identify a solution to enable internal hosting and support for the growing number of external websites

Migration Path:

IBM AIX to Red Hat Enterprise Linux


Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform with integrated virtualization, Red Hat Global File System and Cluster Suite; Red Hat Network Satellite; JBoss Enterprise Application Platform; JBoss Operations Network, Red Hat Consulting; MySQL, Oracle, Caché, FoxPro, and Postgres databases; proprietary applications for reporting and management of patient data and for mail, security, and virus protection


HP and IBM servers


Streamlined disaster recovery and gained higher system availability and resource efficiencies that translate into better patient care; achieved 35 percent growth in its datacenter without needing to expand its hardware footprint or internal resources through its use of virtualization; gained expertise through the knowledge transfer resulting from virtualization and clustering-focused engagements with Red Hat Consulting. “Our first priority is security and our second is performance. When you can get security and performance needs met, and it costs less than the alternative, you go for it. That’s the quadrant that Red Hat Enterprise Linux plays in.” — Barbara Schleider, director of Technology Services, Management Information Systems (MIS) at Florida Hospital


With eight facilities, 18,000 employees, and over 3,000 beds throughout Central Florida, Florida Hospital is the largest hospital and is the second largest employer in the state. Florida Hospital sees more patients through its Emergency Room than any other hospital in the U.S. Established in 1908, the hospital provides care to more than one million patients each year and is part of the Adventist Healthcare Systemand#x2014;the largest not-for-profit healthcare provider in the nation. Florida Hospitaland#x2019;s MIS Department, which includes approximately 100 developers, manages one centralized datacenter for all of its facilities, making it one of the busiest centers in Central Florida. Its over 500 servers and 350 applications are responsible for the life-critical healthcare-delivery machines that rely on its systems. The hospital is also known for its excellent quality of healthcare. US News and World Report magazine has ranked Florida Hospital as one of and#x201c;Americaand#x2019;s Best Hospitalsand#x201d; consecutively for the past six years.

Business Challenge:

To deliver the best patient care, Florida Hospital is constantly evaluating and improving its IT systems—ensuring the most reliable, high-performance infrastructure is always in place. In the mid 1990s, the hospital decided to undergo a new Web initiative to publish its internal applications to the Internet, but the project soon became cost-prohibitive.

Additionally, Florida Hospital’s IT infrastructure was becoming extremely complex with over 300 different places where patient records could be stored. Data stored on the system must be instantly accessible in locations across the hospital, mandating a high-performance and scalable platform for its IT infrastructure.

“As our environment grew, we couldn’t afford to use an expensive proprietary operating systems anymore,” said Jack Velazquez, Sr. Systems Engineer for the Open Systems Team at Florida Hospital. In addition, the hospital began reevaluating its disaster recovery system. As part of the patient-care continuum, Florida Hospital’s IT must be highly available and highly recoverable. “Because of the way our disaster recovery system was designed, it could have taken up to two days to restore our file systems and data if anything went wrong. We knew we needed to deploy a smarter system that would provide seamless business continuity for the hospital,” said Velazquez.

“With the highly transactional nature of Florida Hospital’s business and our need to access patient data with immediacy, we needed a solution that could provide high performance, reliability, and secure backup and recovery,” said Barbara Schleider, director of Technology Services, Management Information Systems (MIS) at Florida Hospital. “Our first priority is security and our second is performance. When you can get security and performance needs met, and it costs less than the alternative, you go for it. That’s the quadrant that Red Hat Enterprise Linux plays in.”


Initially, Florida Hospital turned to Red Hat because it provided the combination of high performance, security, and cost efficiencies it needed for its Web initiative, but it quickly found many more advantages for its disaster recovery project. “We realized that using Red Hat in our data warehouse would help us resolve hardware-software compatibility issues that can cause unnecessary system downtime. Red Hat’s large network of certified vendors ensures that most drivers are built into the operating system kernel, resulting in smoother operations,” said Velazquez. Florida Hospital also chose to use the Red Hat Network Satellite, Red Hat Cluster Suite, and Red Hat Global File System (GFS) to restructure the way its disaster recovery system was designed and managed.

Today, 116 HP and IBM servers run Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform, which runs a number of databases, including the hospital’s eight-terabyte Oracle data warehouse. Red Hat Enterprise Linux also runs JBoss Enterprise Application Platform and the hospital’s proprietary applications, which include patient care, financial, and data management solutions. A group of servers is also dedicated to communication and system protection applications, such as authentication, user ID management, mail, and virus scanning.

To protect all of this critical information, the Open Systems Team created a unique disaster-recovery system by offloading all applications and data to the Red Hat Global File System running on the SAN. Using Red Hat Cluster Suite, the team created a six node cluster. Each of the clusters shares two volumes on the GFS: one for the applications and the other for data. “With Red Hat GFS, we no longer need to replicate data or applications if a server goes down,” said Velazquez. “The servers simply provide CPU and power. Everything else runs from GFS. Though millions of transactions are processed each day at Florida Hospital, today it only takes minutes to back up the Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers.” To upgrade or restore a machine in the cluster, the team simply installs Red Hat Enterprise Linux and attaches the computer to the SAN. Within minutes, it’s ready to go.

As part of its evolutionary partnership with Red Hat, Florida Hospital also implemented the virtualization technology delivered as an integrated part of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform operating system. “With Red Hat virtualization, we’ve been able to manage 35 percent growth in our datacenter without augmenting our hardware infrastructure or staff. We’ve done some exceptional things with virtualization,” said Schleider.

To date, Florida Hospital’s servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux have produced over 1,200 days of solid uptime, thriving despite a number of serious datacenter challenges, including air conditioning malfunctions that caused the server room to overheat. “Our Red Hat Enterprise Linux systems have been very resilient and have survived the most catastrophic conditions with great stability. We’ve never had a problem with our Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers – it’s really a self-sufficient datacenter,” said Velazquez.

The Open Systems Team also implemented Red Hat Network Satellite to facilitate infrastructure management, security compliance, and new system deployment. “Red Hat Network Satellite makes system management easy, enabling us to deploy new applications and security patches to all servers at once,” said Velazquez. Florida Hospital’s data security office continually conducts security audits, and Red Hat Network Satellite tracks all system activities, making it possible for the Open Systems Team to provide detailed reports for HIPAA compliance.

To provide expertise during its virtualization and clustering deployments, Florida Hospital relied upon Red Hat Consulting. “The knowledge transfer that resulted from our work with our Red Hat consultants was extremely valuable,” said Velazquez.

“As a mission-oriented, non-profit organization, we’re conscious of financial stewardship and had not used outside consulting previously,” said Schleider. “We saw the value of investing in Red Hat Consulting and we made the right decision – the expertise we gained from the Red Hat Consulting experience helped us achieve our goals and work toward our mission.”


As a result of deploying Red Hat, Florida Hospital streamlined its disaster recovery processes and gained higher system availability that translates into better patient care. “Red Hat solutions enabled us to create a highly efficient disaster-recovery system that expedited restoration time from days to seconds. This means we make patient data readily available and provide the highest level of care at all times,” said Velazquez. Average recovery time now takes between 30 seconds and five minutes to sync the data and one hour to recover.

Having faced the challenge of growing numbers of external websites being developed by third parties that translated into mounting expenses, using Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform with integrated virtualization technology, the team was able to start migrating these sites to internal hosting. To date, 89 websites have been migrated in-house, providing expanded security and reduced costs for the hospital’s IT infrastructure.

“The strength of Red Hat virtualization for us has really been through paravirtualization,” said Velazquez. “It blows the performance of other virtualization solutions on the market away.”

Florida Hospital also experienced significant efficiency gains from its Red Hat deployment. “Red Hat Network Satellite makes it possible for us to manage 110 servers with only two engineers. Provisioning systems only takes minutes when it used to take us hours or even days,” said Velazquez. With the new Red Hat disaster recovery system, the hospital continues to save on resources. “Red Hat GFS enabled us to create an innovative design that saves on storage costs, network bandwidth, and processing power,” he said. In addition, Red Hat Consulting helped the Open Services Team to implement the Linux disaster-recovery system, helping them build and break clusters during on-site training. “Thanks to Red Hat Consulting we were able to deploy the system within a couple of weeks,” said Velazquez.

Red Hat also helps Florida Hospital maintain a technological and competitive edge. As the largest hospital systems within the Adventist Healthcare System, the hospital strives to stay ahead of the curve. “With 100 developers on our team, we rely on Red Hat to save us time on everyday management issues so we can focus on creating new solutions. Our parent company has been impressed by our efficiency, ROI, and performance gains from using Red Hat. Red Hat Enterprise Linux makes it possible to meet cost pressures, but also still meet mission-critical demands,” said Velazquez.

“There’s nothing more critical than lives at risk, so our systems must be highly recoverable. Having highly available systems means that Florida Hospital can deliver the quality care that our patients need,” said Schleider.

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