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Sapphire Health accelerates innovation with Red Hat

Sapphire Healthcare helps solve the healthcare industry challenge of migrating, implementing, and managing services in an Epic environment. Taking a new approach to Epic deployments, Sapphire began in 2015 by establishing an Epic infrastructure for six area hospitals, and based on their extensive experience, has now formed a boutique consultancy for Epic customers.

Focusing on infrastructure delivery and modernization, Sapphire has completed more than 25 migrations to Red Hat Linux, for customers across North America. More recently, Sapphire has implemented Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform across their Epic environments, initially focusing on the acceleration of server builds and related maintenance. As a result, Sapphire helped Epic customers significantly improve operations and lower costs. 

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Benefits

  • Reduced server build times ten-fold, allowing the team to focus on innovation  

  • Eliminated manual errors, potential security concerns

  • Provided complete and accurate documentation without manual intervention

  • Increased capacity of server administration by a factor of 10+

Making server builds repeatable and dependable

While working on a project to modernize the Epic environments for several healthcare nonprofits, Sapphire realized they were repeatedly rebuilding servers—sometimes 10 or 15 times for each optimization. “While we were optimizing, we wanted to be able to throw away any change that didn’t work and quickly spin up a server identical to the previous build,” said Austin Park, CEO, Sapphire Health.

Prior to adopting Ansible Automation Platform, Sapphire spent significant time in server administration: new builds, ongoing management and maintenance, securing, upgrading, and print server management. With Ansible Automation Platform, Sapphire was able to substantially increase the volume of work, accuracy, and security, and auto-generate required documentation.  

Optimizing infrastructure in less time and with less difficulty

Accelerated server builds

Adopting Ansible Automation Platform helped Sapphire build servers 10 times faster, when building them serially, which significantly affected the company’s time-savings. Using Ansible Automation Platform helps Sapphire build large numbers of servers in parallel across groups.

Eliminated manual errors 

Scripts are written once and applied without manual repetition. Sapphire can be confident that builds will always be identical, without overlooking or forgetting data, thus eliminating potential security concerns from misconfigurations that lead to vulnerabilities.

Provided documentation automatically

Playbooks provide full documentation of all actions across processes without the need for manual intervention. The built-in, self-documentation capabilities provided by Ansible Playbook mean the Sapphire team no longer needs to hand-write documentation, thus mitigating the risk of incomprehensible documentation or written errors.  

Reduce costs and increase administrative capacity

Automation substantially reduces the costs related to server administration, while also giving the team capacity by a factor of 10+ to focus on other tasks and improvements.

Extending automation capabilities

Following the server task automation success, the Sapphire team turned to Epic printer management. Like most facilities, printers and forms are frequently added, moved, and deleted. Simply keeping up with these changes and reconfigurations requires multiple full-time employees (FTEs), with an average turnaround time of 30 days or more. The Sapphire team crafted an Ansible Playbook process to watch for these events and reconfigure the print server as needed—saving multiple FTE costs and reducing the turnaround time to several hours. “Playbooks allow us to script build steps so we can repeat identical build and provisioning processes,” said Park. He added, “Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform makes the concept of ‘throw-it-away-then-rebuild-it’ workable.” Once built, Sapphire registers their servers in Red Hat Satellite and then installs the Red Hat Insights client onto the servers. 

Building long-term loyalty together

Having more time to bring innovation and value to healthcare customers, Sapphire is expanding their automation footprint to include network automation, compliance management, audit management, and more. The Sapphire team has also tested Ansible Automation Platform for builds in Microsoft Azure, Cisco, and VMware builds.

“We’re currently looking at using Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform to rapidly deploy our disaster recovery environments in Azure. This would mean we wouldn’t have to maintain the resources for our disaster recovery environment on-premise,” said Park. With Azure, the faster you can build the environment and back it down when it is no longer needed, the lower the costs, making Ansible Automation Platform—and rapid deployment capabilities—the ideal tool for disaster recovery builds on Azure.

Additionally, Cisco developed a playbook and has made it public. The playbook allows users to commit any configuration changes in their Cisco backups to a GitHub repository. Sapphire uses Cisco switches and routers to serve their Epic environment, therefore the team looks to Ansible Automation Platform for version control back ups.

Sapphire is continuing to explore the many opportunities Red Hat offers, for example, how to use Ansible Automation Platform to interact with REST application programming interface (API) to integrate with third-party products, eliminating the need to write additional code. “Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform is allowing us to support new technologies and work with any hardware,” said Park. Park went on to add, “We can do almost anything with Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform—even automate machines that are difficult to automate.”

Beginning in 2021, the Red Hat healthcare partner has been using Ansible Automation Platform for automating processes in a hybrid cloud environment. Disaster Recovery (DR) automation was the first target, and others will follow. Together, Sapphire and Red Hat are leading the Infrastructure-as-Code (IaaC) modernization efforts for Epic customers. 

About Sapphire Health 

Sapphire Health was founded in 2015 with the mission of supporting healthcare organizations in the midst of complex transition, when a group of seasoned healthcare IT professionals recognized a significant gap in the market for a consulting company focused on the hardcore technical aspects of an Epic implementation.


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