LifeSpring’s vision is to provide affordable, high-quality healthcare to lower-income women in India by setting up a chain of maternity hospitals. Maternity charges inclusive of all costs are as low as $40 per patient, while the quality of services is top-class. “We follow three business philosophies while running our business-quality, affordability, and personalized care,” said Sujeet Kumar, manager, IT, LifeSpring. “So, we look at IT as an enabler that can help us in providing affordable healthcare without any compromise in quality,” he added.
LifeSpring has ambitious aspirations to grow in the near future. “From nine hospitals today, we have set the target to reach the mark of 30 by 2012 and about 100 by 2015,” said Sujeet. LifeSpring also plans to expand geographically to other states of India, such as Maharashtra and Karnataka. This would mean a massive increase in the number of employees and the number of patients the company would be able to reach. The company expects to employ approximately 4,500 people by 2012.
As a process-oriented organization, LifeSpring faced the challenge of maintaining the same quality standards across all of its hospitals. For a company that has aggressive growth plans, training and continuously developing the skills of an increasing number of employees was anticipated to become more of a challenge. Communications between hospitals would also become difficult as LifeSpring expands its reach. It was essential for the company to find a way to manage its growing database of customer information, as well as smoothly coordinate its operational logistics.
Mr. Anant Kumar, CEO of LifeSpring Hospitals, has a vision of an integrated IT platform across all LifeSpring operations. From the very beginning, LifeSpring’s management team has been solidly focused on IT and IT-related processes and decided to formulate a comprehensive plan for LifeSpring’s IT infrastructure. This infrastructure needed to provide manageability across all functions and departments, build a high degree of collaboration amongst its members, improve service delivery to patients, and facilitate systems to increase productivity and responsibility.
“In short, we wanted to build a state-of-the-art strategic IT infrastructure to enable us to scale rapidly. It also had to be flexible to give us freedom to customize and tune the infrastructure to our requirements. This makes it easier to manage our IT operations, while at the same time delivering cost efficiency,” said Sujeet.
With flexibility, scalability, cost, performance, and manageability criteria in mind, LifeSpring’s IT team chose Red Hat as its trusted technology partner. It se-lected Red Hat’s open source solutions, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Network Satellite, and JBoss Enterprise Middleware, as an ideal technology base on which to build its IT infrastructure.
Before zeroing in on open source solutions, LifeSpring’s management team conducted a rigorous evaluation that lasted for almost 18 months. “We estimated the total cost of ownership (TCO) for both the proprietary options compared against the open source alternatives,” said Sujeet. LifeSpring’s management considered a variety of parameters for the calculation of TCO. “We considered parameters, including manageability and cost of acquisition as well as recurring costs, scalability of the solution, and flexibility to customize, amongst others,” he added. Additionally, the decision to use open source technology was also strengthened by the rapid and significant return on investment (ROI) that the open source solutions were capable of providing.
“The implementation of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss Enterprise Middleware, along with other open source products, was one of the key milestones in our IT deployments, as it was the first time LifeSpring was implementing open source solutions,” said Sujeet. When LifeSpring decided to base its entire IT infrastructure on open source technology, Red Hat, as the world’s open source leader, was the preferred choice. “Red Hat has built a strong ecosystem of open source technology-based products and services,” said Sujeet.
Red Hat’s partner Taashee Linux Services completed the implementation. Taashee, a Linux and open source technology solution provider based in India, presented LifeSpring with an overview of enterprise open source software. As a Red Hat Business Partner, Taashee was able to provide detailed information about Red Hat Enterprise Linux solutions and addressed concerns regarding the quality and consistency of Red Hat’s technical support. “Enterprise-ready open source solutions deliver the traditional advantages customers have come to expect from open source software along with guaranteed SLA-based support,” says Abhishek Datt, chief technology officer, Taashee Linux Services Ltd.
“We are already starting to see more and more organizations choosing open source software in order to take advantage of the numerous benefits over proprietary products, including the high-quality, and cost advantages.”
LifeSpring chose Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 as its standard operating system for its servers with dual 64-bit Quad-Core AMD Opteron processors, Red Hat Directory Server as its centerpiece for authentication, and JBoss Enterprise Application Platform as the application server for all J2EE applications. LifeSpring also used the integrated virtualization technology built in to Red Hat Enterprise Linux to help in maximizing its resources and in increasing its deployment flexibility and responsiveness.
Red Hat Directory Server takes care of the authentication and unified sign-on needs. “It is a standard solution with a user-friendly interface,” said Sujeet.
Currently, Red Hat Directory Server is implemented along with a replica server for high availability. Most of the applications running in LifeSpring use JBoss Enterprise Application Platform as their application server. Its critical Hospital ERP system is also running on JBoss Enterprise Application Platform. “With JBoss Enterprise Application Platform providing services like clustering, failover, and load balancing, my IT team has more time for other high-priority tasks,” said Sujeet.
In addition to Red Hat’s robust open source solutions, LifeSpring also implemented a number of Red Hat certified ISV solutions on top of the Red Hat infrastructure. “Because Red Hat has an extensive ISV catalog, it was easy to ensure that we choose products that are certified on Red Hat Enterprise Linux,” said Sujeet. LifeSpring implemented Zimbra Collaboration Suite Network Edition for fulfilling the mail and collaboration needs and Open Source Trouble Ticketing System (Open Ticket Request System, or OTRS) for tracking all the complaints raised by the internal as well as external customers.
For setting up a reliable VoIP communication solution, LifeSpring used Elastix, which is appliance software that integrates the best tools available for Asterisk-based PBXs into a single, easy-to-use interface. To build a scalable, secure, and cost-effective enterprise content management solution, LifeSpring used Alfresco. To address the employee training challenges that kept accumulating with the organization’s rapid growth, LifeSpring implemented a Moodle-based learning management solution. Finally, for monitoring the entire IT infrastructure, LifeSpring used Zabbix, an open source monitoring system.
Since the implementation of its Red Hat-based infrastructure, LifeSpring has never faced any unplanned downtime and is very satisfied with its overall open source architecture. “We are confident in the capability of Red Hat solutions to provide reliable, scalable, and cost-effective business solutions,” said Sujeet. “In fact, in accordance with our IT philosophy, we would only consider Red Hat-certified enterprise open source solutions for our future IT deployments,” added Sujeet.
In the future, LifeSpring plans to utilize the power of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization. “We plan to migrate all of our virtualized systems to KVM-based Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization from our existing set of Xen-based servers and VMware vSphere 4 based virtualization in coming months,” said Sujeet. “This would help us to standardize all of our IT infrastructure on the robust Red Hat platform.”
“With open source in general and Red Hat in particular, we were able to extract tremendous value from our systems and applications,” said Sujeet. “Red Hat-based open source solutions freed us from vendor lock–in and gave enough flexibility to customize the applications to generate high performance,” he added.
Red Hat solutions also provided LifeSpring with lower IT costs, simplified management, reduced systems maintenance, and increased scalability and performance to cater to the rapid growth of the organization. “Red Hat solutions allow you to extract more from your systems, enabling business growth,” said Sujeet.
The maintenance of the entire IT infrastructure has been highly simplified. “Our IT team consists of only three people, and until now, we have comfortably managed to run the entire show without any major hiccups,” said Sujeet. LifeSpring could also respond to rapid business growth with the robust backbone of a Red Hat-based infrastructure. “In the last 10 months, there has been near zero downtime,” Sujeet added.
The implemented open source solutions also improved the productivity of the organization’s business process. “Our customer satisfaction has increased multi-fold, as with such a state-of-the-art infrastructure, we could reach them easily and in a timely manner. The cost-effective nature of open source allowed us to pass those benefits on to our customers, thereby providing affordable healthcare,” said Sujeet.
LifeSpring has been able to leverage technology strategically to support and scale its unique business model. “The most important value of the open architecture and Red Hat solutions has been in significantly lowering the cost of service delivery while making no compromises in quality,” said Sujeet.
Overall, Red Hat provided LifeSpring with enterprise-class solutions that are robust and scalable at an affordable price without any compromise on performance. “Red Hat, along with enterprise-class open source solutions from its certified ISV partners, helped us leverage our IT resources to strategically build the right platform for tomorrow,” said Sujeet.