Southern Cross looks for cost savings in thin client system

If saving 20% on initial set-up costs as well as reducing ongoing costs sounds good to you, you're not alone. It sounded great to Southern Cross when the health-care provider decided to update its IT structure.

If saving 20% on initial set-up costs as well as reducing ongoing costs sounds good to you, you’re not alone. It sounded great to Southern Cross when the health-care provider decided to update its IT structure.

Instead of the traditional PC/server two-tier combo, Southern Cross decided to see what all the hype was about and chose a thin client solution.

“We have 13 hospitals spread around the country with 80 PCs to connect,” says project manager, Doug Matthews.

“Early on in the piece we decided it would be better to centralise our IT structure as much as possible.”

Matthews, and CIO Graeme Osborne, felt it would be better for the 13 hospitals involved if they had as little to worry about as possible.

“Instead of distributing servers around the country, building facilities and staffing them and so on, we wanted to keep everything in the one place.”

Matthews believes that medical or admin staff should be allowed to get on with their jobs rather than having to fix any IT problems that arise, and a central facility seemed the best way of achieving that.

“We sent out an RFP and discovered that very few companies have actually gone down this path,” says Osborne.

That fact surprised him. “Given the hype surrounding thin client, I expected to see more of it out there.”

Services firm CSC was chosen to implement Citrix MetaFrame on top of Windows Terminal Server to 80 PCs over CSX’s 16Kb/s frame relay network. Despite the relatively low bandwidth, Matthews says he is more than happy with access speed.

“It’s not bandwidth you have to worry about with thin client — it’s memory capacity.”

To that end, Southern Cross bought two Hewlett-Packard LH3 servers, each running two Pentium II 450 processors and half a gigabyte of RAM. Eventually they will be joined by a third server to act as stand-by and to provide more flexibility.

Rather than keep its existing PC compliment, none of which were under warranty, Southern Cross decided to buy new PCs to kick-start its move to thin client.

“We hope to get at least five years’ life out of the new PCs, if not more,” says Matthews. Southern Cross chose HP Vectra boxes running 233MHz Pentium II processors.

Rolling out the thin client solution is only step one in Southern Cross’s plans for the next year. Step two is a hospital management system to bring the 13 hospitals under one system. Patient management as well as a billing system are due to be rolled out by June with an “activity-based costing-system” scheduled for launch by the end of the year.

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