Southern Cross seeks Linux cure

Southern Cross Healthcare is looking for cost savings from Linux as a $17 million loss is blamed on problems with its claims processing system.

The health insurer is introducing Red Hat Linux on Compaq servers to replace Sequent Numa-Q servers running Unix variant Dynix.

Operations and infrastructure manager Doug Matthews says the switch will considerably cut Southern Cross's IT costs.

"I can buy a new Compaq server with OS for the price of the maintenance of the old servers."

The servers will be running Oracle's 9i database. A Siebel CRM application has already been back-ended with the database and Matthews says the exercise was "a stunning success", with a 50% increase in performance. "It's extremely reliable and cost-effective."

By the end of the year, seven production databases - that is, ones used by Southern Cross staff - will be running under the Linux set-up, Matthews says.

The decision to go with the Linux-Oracle-Compaq combination came about after "we looked at the cost of having many high-end Unix boxes", Matthews says.

"For an organisation our size, that cost is significant and we found we could provide [the same] service to our internal customers [Southern Cross departments] on hardware that was a fraction of the cost."

Ultimately, Southern Cross will look at clustering, he says.

The insurer's claims process hit the headlines last year as efforts to integrate the Southern Cross system with that of newly acquired Aetna's caused long processing delays.

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