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VMworld 2011: Kaiser Permanente splits systems support to reduce helpdesk toll

Cliff Saran

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Kaiser Permanente, a supplier of electronic patient records to US clinicians, has re-engineered its IT service delivery to split high availability and performance. This will allow it to streamline support and maintain a life-critical medical system.

 

Kaiser Permanente runs a seven-mainframe environment with 15,000 servers and 20 petabytes of storage. It runs 300 IT management tools. Speaking at VMworld Copenhagen, Ian Todd, director of services delivery at Kaiser Permanente, said his goal is to reduce this number to 30, to make it easier to manage the IT environment.

The challenge for the organisation, according to Todd, was that its support desk was overloaded with helpdesk tickets. With 120,000 clinicians on the system, sometimes an entire hospital would slow down, he said. "We cannot firefight when it involves people's lives."

Traditional systems administrators are tasked with resolving helpdesk issues, while a separate team of 50 focus on performance.

The IT management tools had 4,000 thresholds, which was far too high, he said. IBM, which runs operations for Kaiser Permanente, was tasked with reworking the IT metrics and thresholds collected by the company's numerous system monitoring tools to prevent over-burdening the helpdesk. For instance, SQL Server now has 100 threshold, he said.

By simplifying the metrics used to monitor the health of the company's IT systems, Todd said he could ensure that there was someone in Kaiser Permanente's IT who understood the metric if a given threshold was breached, raising a helpdesk ticket. "I wanted to make every ticket actionable."

Feedback of how well a problem has been resolved is fed into the Remedy helpdesk system, allowing the IT team to understand how well the problem was fixed.

 


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