Less is the New More When it Comes to IT and Offering Better Care to Australian Seniors
There’s not a lot of glory in the profession of elder care, but it’s incredibly rewarding to help people live well and with dignity in their senior years. And there are a lot of people who make that happen—even those of us in IT.
Amana Living is a not-for-profit aged care service provider in Western Australia. Our 1,850 employees and 200 volunteers help our residents and clients optimize their quality of life by providing assistance tailored to their needs and abilities.
Our focus is not on our bottom line but on providing the best care for seniors, whether they’re living independently, in a retirement village, or in a nursing home. Our mantra is giving back to the people we serve, so we are mindful of every penny, investing in products and services that allow us to best assist the elders under our care.
A Review Uncovered Our Pain Points
As Amana’s Head of ICT, I strive to rein in costs while ensuring our infrastructure meets the diverse needs of our staff and clients, juggling enterprise, clinical, and residential applications. We need technology that can accommodate our ERP and business administration tools, patient record systems, clinical hardware and software, and personal telephony, internet, and streaming services for our retirement villages and nursing homes.
Upon accepting this job, I immediately launched an enterprise architect review. I discovered we were using 65 applications and over 50 suppliers to accomplish our day-to-day tasks under our previous environment, and our operational expenses were excessively high. It was also a matter of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Whenever we wanted to make a change or address a technical issue, our IT team had to deal with a handful of organizations and dozens of people, which was a headache and a time sink.
During my review, I sat down and went through every solution we were using. When had we rolled it out? How was it currently operating, and could we use it better? And what were the synergies between our systems and suppliers? I had conversations with all our business units, where we explored their operational pain points and inefficiencies and looked for potential improvements.
Finally, I considered how we could use ICT to improve client services. By fully grasping the issues confronting every department and our clients and residents, I could start to draft a new master blueprint for Amana’s IT infrastructure.
A New Solution and a Streamlined Offering
After this initial study, I arrived at three conclusions:
- First, we needed to reduce the number of service partners to ease the management burden on our IT team.
- Second, we had to move from MPLS to SD-WAN to reduce costs, increase bandwidth, better secure our network, and offer high-speed connectivity to clients and residents.
- Third, we needed a failover mechanism because our existing method to back up and restore our servers and network in the event of an outage was limited. I also wanted to bring everything back in-house. We were running virtual storage and compute on Azure, and costs were skyrocketing.
I sketched out a provisional solution and talked it over with a couple of trusted industry colleagues. They suggested the HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform, the IT-as-a-service model that offers customers a pay-per-use option for on-prem hardware use instead of buying it outright. The HPE GreenLake platform would allow me to bring our hardware back in-house, but I would still have to iron out a deal with two providers for SD-WAN: Australian telco Vocus and Fortinet. Despite massively streamlining our infrastructure, I wasn’t content with the prospect of dealing with three suppliers. Still, I had architected what I thought was the simplest solution at that time.
Then, during an early discussion with our HPE GreenLake account manager, I discovered that the company had signed reseller agreements with Vocus and Fortinet. If Amana wanted to use either of these technologies, HPE could procure and manage it for us. My plan was coming together better than I’d originally thought—HPE’s delivery manager could handle relationships with both companies, leaving me with two fewer headaches to deal with.
From a technical perspective, the HPE GreenLake platform checked all the boxes, offering storage and compute, a network, internet connectivity, and cybersecurity using HPE, Vocus, and Fortinet components. HPE ProLiant DL360 servers provide the compute performance needed for our workloads, combined with VMware as the virtualization platform. From a storage perspective, we are covered across the board through a combination of the HPE Alletra 6000, the HPE Apollo 4200, and HPE StoreOnce.
On Our Way to a More Agile Approach
HPE Services played a large part in the construction of the deal and continue to be a key component throughout the HPE GreenLake implementation. Their team was involved in the design of the HCI infrastructure to replace our legacy IT infrastructure in two data centres, and they also helped as we began the deployment in October 2022. HPE assigned us a project manager and I assigned an internal project manager and a pair of team leads—one to oversee the Azure migration and another to roll out our SD-WAN.
I'm a little impatient to transition to the HPE GreenLake platform, but we purposely moved slow and steady as we migrated everything over, connecting 35 sites to our network. We’ve taken a phased approach from planning the replacement of the data centre platform, data centre core network, and Fortinet platform to migrating the workload on-premises and to Microsoft Azure, including knowledge transfer. The first part of the deployment involved scoping the work and then scheduling and documenting tasks week by week. I also set up a calendar of meetings to follow up on our progress. I talk to the senior managers at HPE monthly, sit down with my project manager weekly, and meet with subject matter experts every two weeks to discuss what we’ve already done and how to design the future.
I’ve adopted an agile approach to the project and made my intentions clear to our team at HPE. I don’t expect perfection. We can’t be 100% correct all the time, and everyone acknowledges that we should collaboratively address concerns should they arise. Far too often, partners spend time assigning blame when things go wrong, which is counterproductive and slows things down. Instead, we recognized that this is an iterative process. Our relationship with HPE is based on getting things right, not on pointing fingers.
Whilst we had some minor setbacks as expected with any project of this scale, I am excited to say we have completed the Azure to on-prem migration without a hitch. To date, we have noticed application performance improvements by more than 200% in some instances, and reports that took two hours to run now take 20 minutes.
We have rolled out Vocus connectivity for our corporate network and that company’s consumer-grade nbn internet service for residents and guests at our facilities. On top of all this, our Fortinet switches incorporate Telstra SIM cards, giving us 4G connectivity and an additional failover in case of a catastrophic failure or a cut cable.
Tech That Enables Us to Fulfill Our Mission
Using the HPE GreenLake platform, we’re covering all our bases and making our lives easier. We've reduced OpEx costs and complexity, and equipped our sites with scalable, up-to-the-minute technology that will allow us to meet future challenges.
Giving our colleagues best-in-class tools enables them to use the system more effectively and do their jobs better. This helps us all fulfill our mission of providing high-quality aged care to our clients.