VAR Implements Cisco UCS For Non-Profit Health System

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A five-hospital non-profit health system that worked with its solution provider to implement the Cisco UCS platform found it to be not only a cost-effective solution but one which easily expanded to meet changing requirements.

Moses Cone Health System, Greensboro, N.C., signed on with Cisco solution provider Varrow to implement UCS when it had a short 90-day window to prepare new hardware on which to base a new clinical data repository project.

And for Varrow, it was an opportunity to learn the insides and outsides of UCS, a move which has since lead to several new opportunities, said Mark McDaniel, health-care account manager for the Greensboro, N.C.-based solution provider.

Cisco UCS, or Unified Computing System, combines networking, blade servers, storage, core switching, routing, security, and voice over IP (VoIP) into a single architecture.

Moses Cone's and Varrow's introduction to UCS started back in the Summer of 2009 when the health-care organization decided to update its clinical data repository software.

Michael Heil, technology infrastructure manager of Moses Cone, said the software required his company install 16 new VMware EXS host servers, a requirement that, if done with traditional 2U servers, would fill an entire data center rack and use a lot of Fibre Channel and Ethernet ports.

The choice initially seemed to be between traditional server and I/O technology or some converged infrastructure offering based on Cisco's Nexus 5000 networking switch, which Heil said worked well in VMware environments.

A Cisco sales rep and Varrow were asked to do a Nexus 5000 presentation, which they did. But then the Cisco rep, almost as an afterthought, brought up Cisco UCS as an alternative.

"I told the rep I didn't want to spend too much time talking about USC, but he said, 'Let me tell you one thing,'" Heil said.

That one thing turned out to be an analogy comparing Cisco UCS to the ease in managing capacity in virtualized storage environments, and that got Heil's attention.

That September, Heil attended the VMworld conference in San Francisco, where he said Cisco UCS, because it had been just introduced, was in evidence throughout the show.

"The entire show was run on UCS," he said. "They also had a roundtable with early users. I saw it was already production-ready. So I went back to Varrow, our VMware partner for almost two years, and talked to them about UCS."

The day he got back from VMworld, Heil said his company's top executives told him they planned to sign the new software contract on September 30, and that the new hardware would have to be ready to go within 60 days. However, with a bit of arguing, Heil said he got a 90 day window.

Varrow, a long-time partner of Cisco for data center implementations, was originally skeptical about UCS, McDaniel said. However, after helping Heil get involved in the UCS roundtable at VMworld and getting the technology in its own lab to test, McDaniel said Varrow was hooked. "We don't think there's anything else like it," he said.


Next: Implementing And Building On UCS

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