Helsana boosts efficiency through standardization

Published on 27-Nov-2012

"We had quite high requirements and asked all major players in the market for offers. The IBM solution met all our requirements and simply provided the best balance between performance and price." - Urs Häringer, Head of Technology Management, Helsana

Customer:
Helsana

Industry:
Insurance

Deployment country:
Switzerland

Solution:
High Availability , Server Consolidation, Small & Medium Business, Virtualization, Virtualization - Network, Virtualization - Server

IBM Business Partner:
WAREX AG

Overview

Helsana is the leading Swiss provider of health and accident insurance. The company has offices in all parts of the country and employs approximately 3,000 people. In 2011 it collected an income of CHF 5.6 billion from premiums.

Business need:
Helsana wanted to drive up profitability by boosting efficiency and slashing IT costs. To help strengthen its market position, the company needed to implement, deploy and extend services faster.

Solution:
Working with IBM and WAREX AG, Helsana consolidated to IBM System x® 3850 X5 and IBM System x3690 X5 servers, creating a standardized platform for many of the company’s business-critical applications.

Benefits:
Provides a highly standardized, scalable server platform, accelerating implementation and roll-out of new systems, and enhancing business agility. Reduces both operational and capital expenditure.

Case Study

To read a German version of this case study, please click here

Helsana is the leading Swiss provider of health and accident insurance. The company has offices in all parts of the country and employs approximately 3,000 people. In 2011 it collected an income of CHF 5.6 billion from premiums.

To enable faster response to changing business requirements, Helsana wanted to migrate from its existing Oracle SPARC Enterprise servers running Oracle Solaris to a more flexible server platform. The monolithic legacy servers had become out-of-date and inflexible, making it difficult for the company to deploy new services and to capitalize on opportunities for growth.

Recognizing the benefits of standardization, Helsana decided to also consolidate its existing HP Superdome servers to a new platform. Operating all core applications on a single server platform would help to ease administration and speed up deployment and provisioning processes.

In line with corporate targets to reduce investment and operating costs, the Helsana IT team looked for a more cost-efficient server platform. The team evaluated four different x86-architecture solutions and selected the IBM offering on the strength of its price-performance ratio.

Urs Häringer, Head of Technology Management at Helsana, explains: “We had quite high requirements and asked all major players in the market for offers. The IBM solution met all our requirements and simply provided the best balance between performance and price.”

Implementing a standardized solution
Working with IBM and IBM Business Partner WAREX AG, Helsana designed the new server infrastructure.

To replace its old systems from different vendors and based on various processor architectures, the team implemented 100 IBM System x3850 X5 and IBM System x3690 X5 servers, all based on the latest-generation IBM X-Architecture®, including top-of-the-line Intel Xeon E7 processors.

Rolf Mäder, Head of Engineering at Helsana, says: “We standardized on IBM System x servers and deployed just two different models. This approach allows us to significantly increase efficiency in managing our IT infrastructure.”

Using IBM Systems Director, Helsana integrated the new servers into its existing data center monitoring system.

Taking advantage of virtualization
The IBM servers are configured with KVM virtualization to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux and VMware for Microsoft Windows workloads. To ensure high availability for its mission-critical business applications, Helsana takes advantage of the clustering features provided by the virtualization software. In addition, the company decided to implement live migration capability based on the new server platform.

“Our experience with clustering and high-availability features in the virtualization layer has been very positive. The new solution is much easier to manage and less error-prone than the hardware-based clustering solutions of our legacy servers,” says Rolf Mäder. “For improved business continuity we also rely on live migration of virtual machines. This enables us to perform maintenance on server hardware without interrupting the service to our users. We did not have this capability on our old systems.”

Supporting a wide range of applications
Helsana is now using the IBM System x servers to operate an extensive SAP ERP application landscape with a database size of about 780 GB, which supports business processes in finance and controlling, and SAP ERP Human Capital Management.

The company runs its VisionEnterprise CRM solution, used by sales and customer service staff, on the new servers, and also deployed various software appliances such as a gateway server for secure data exchange on the virtualized server platform.

Altogether, the IBM System x servers run approximately 120 databases, including Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle instances. The data volume managed by the IBM System x3850 X5 and IBM System x3690 X5 servers adds up to some 160 TB.

To upgrade its backup and recovery solution, Helsana installed a dedicated IBM System x3850 X5 server running IBM Tivoli® Storage Manager software. As the central backup server, the system is configured to handle extensive I/O and networking workloads. For improved security, the company set up about 20 separated virtual networks.

Rolf Mäder says: “Working with IBM, we implemented a flexible and easy-to-use environment based on IBM Tivoli Storage Manager running on an IBM System x3850 X5 server. This solution enabled us to boost our backup performance and helps to ensure that we meet our required service levels.”

Enhanced flexibility and increased productivity
The new server platform has enabled Helsana to standardize its IT infrastructure and enhance business flexibility. The new solution can be extended easily, providing improved scalability and simpler management, and allows the company to better manage its growing infrastructure without increasing the size of its IT teams.

Server consolidation has reduced the Helsana’s total cost of ownership, enabling optimizations in procurement, deployment and operations. Having just one maintenance contract with one vendor substantially simplifies administration.

With IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, Helsana has been able to reduce its backup times significantly. Urs Häringer. says: “In the past, backup times were growing beyond 24 hours. With IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, we have substantially reduced backup times. In addition, we can now guarantee supreme data protection and meet required service levels.

“By moving away from proprietary hardware and software systems, we improved the scalability of our IT operations considerably. The IBM solution integrates well with systems from other vendors, providing additional flexibility. We are not locked into a specific technology, and this flexibility enables us to benefit from competition in the IT sector. With IBM, we selected a leading manufacturer providing innovative and reliable solutions at an attractive price.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
System x, System x: System x running hypervisor - KVM, System x: System x3690 X5, System x: System x3850 X5

Software:
Tivoli Storage Manager, IBM Systems Director Editions

Operating system:
Linux

Legal Information

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