AIX > Case Studies > Healthcare

The Doctor is In

When DVDs first hit the market, I remember being excited about the promise they held--multiple camera angles, alternative endings and special features galore. Although I don't consider myself an early technology adopter, I was somewhat anxious to delve into the glories of this new video format.

This didn't come without a price, however. To enjoy this new video experience, I had to move to a new hardware platform (the DVD player), restructure my environment (purchasing a new television that had the connections for both my DVD player, my now-legacy VCR and my satellite hookup) and invest in new software (the DVDs that either replaced my favorite tapes or were new video purchases).

Although much of this was done over time, with the new television coming a year or so after the DVD player and the DVDs themselves entering my collection in dribs and drabs, the effort was well worth it. I can now watch digitally remastered movies and take advantage of all the goodies packed onto those shiny little disks.

Companies are often faced with similar quandaries, especially as they pertain to their IT environments. As new software or software versions come to market, for example, organizations may have to upgrade their existing IT infrastructures to keep up with the pace, power and speed of the new applications. While I upgraded out of choice, they may have to do so out of necessity.

But rather than view this as an epic-like catastrophe, affected organizations could instead examine this issue as a possible cause for internal IT improvement, much as the Dearborn, Mich.-based Oakwood Healthcare System recently did. Facing an upgrade to its core ERP application and increasingly spotty performance issues, it used the opportunity to not only upgrade to new computing and storage solutions, but also consolidate much of its existing resources.

The Diagnosis

Established in 1953, Oakwood, which has more than 40 primary- and secondary-care locations, including four acute-care hospitals, serves 35 communities in southeastern Michigan (more than a million people live within the region). The second largest employer (outside of Detroit) in Michigan's western Wayne County, it has more than 9,000 dedicated employees, 1,200 physicians and 1,300 volunteers.

Currently supporting this networked infrastructure of different locations of varying sizes are two IBM* eServer pSeries* 670 servers running AIX* 5.1, two p650s also running AIX 5.1, one p680 running AIX 4.3.3, one RS/6000* 6H1 running AIX 5.1 and five RS/6000* Scalable POWERparallel* nodes, each running AIX 4.3.3. On the storage front, it has one IBM 2105 Enterprise Storage Server* (ESS), three IBM 2109 SAN switches and one Cisco MDS 9509 SAN switch with 64 ports. Related to software, Oakwood is running PeopleSoft's human resources, payroll and financials applications, as well as a host of healthcare-related applications.

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at

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