IBM appliance could serve all 21 District Health Boards

healthAlliance replaces SQL Server supplied by HP with IBM Netezza appliance

An IBM data warehouse analytics appliance purchased by the healthAlliance could serve all of New Zealand’s district health boards, according to healthAlliance.

“It’s been suggested at executive level that we could possibly expand to all of the 21 DHBs if that was wanted,” says Luis Valles, the Alliance customer data warehouse architect. “That would be a huge return on investment.”

Even so, he expects savings of more than $1 million over the next few years by implementing the IBM Netezza appliance across four DHBs, replacing the incumbent SQL Server supplied by Hewlett-Packard.

Valles says the healthAlliance faced two challenges: to solve performance and availability issues around the overnight processing for the two DHBs it served; and to expand the system to two more DHBs, which cover the whole northern region.

“We went through a very rigorous RFP process,” says Valles. “We had 12 vendors reply. We got down to a shortlist of four, then two. Our final decision was based on simplicity, performance, and price.”

“Netezza blew its nearest competitor out of the water on performance. We got a really good deal [on price].”

healthAlliance has installed two of the Netezza TwinFin appliances, the first a production version and the other a test version. The price was $350,000.

Competing technologies offered included Teradata and EMC’s Greenplum. Oracle Exadata, which also has an offering in the space, was expected “but they didn’t submit an application”.

“Our data warehouse was developed over 10 years, so you don’t implement changes all at once,” says Valles. It took four months to roll out the first phase to take us into production but it’s a one-year project.”

The Netezza analytics appliance will provide faster clinical and business analysis data to better manage hospital resources and services. In the publicly funded healthcare system, accurate reporting is critical for DHBs to show they are meeting government targets such as minimum waiting times for emergency department issues.

“Accurate reporting is essential for DHB planners and other business users to manage the complex, capital-intensive systems that are hospitals,” Valles says.

healthAlliance and its IBM business partner, Tenzing, have migrated more than 65 databases and 3,500 tables from the incumbent data warehouse. In the pipeline is an integrated key performance indicator reporting scorecard to provide an organisation-wide view of the Waitemata DHB.

It is the first implementation of Netezza in New Zealand.

IDC says the overall market in New Zealand for business intelligence software will reach $48 million by 2015, outperforming the overall IT market growth at a five-year compound annual growth rate of 7.5 percent.

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