Welcome!

DevOps Journal Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Sebastian Kruk

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Java, SOA & WOA, Linux, Security, DevOps Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

How Healthcare SaaS Provider Masters Quality and DevOps Using Cloud ITSM

Healthcare app provider PointClickCare manages growth while maintaining quality

Healthcare SaaS application developer PointClickCare has had to manage high growth while maintaining even higher quality of services delivery demands amid constant up-time requirements.

Whether it's monitoring medication management in a closed-loop integration with pharmacies, or managing weekly release schedules for their software, the change is constant at PointClickCare, based in Toronto.

To help maintain control and remain ever-ready for improvements, PointClickCare recently adopted a cloud-based IT service management (ITSM) solution. To learn the benefits and lessons learned in moving from an older approach, BriefingsDirect had an opportunity to sit down with Craig Schultz, Director of Hosting Operations at PointClickCare.

The discussion, conducted at the recent HP Discover 2013 Conference in Barcelona, is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: We know that healthcare is a very dynamic environment, and there is a lot going on in moving organizations to electronic health records (EHRs). How is this affecting your business?

Schultz: We’re very busy, adding customers all of the time, trying to keep up with the demand for data, installing new customers, training customers, deploying new platforms on our end, infrastructure changes, and of course, rolling out Service Anywhere.

Gardner: And because your application is delivered through multi-tenancy, software as a service (SaaS) and cloud to all these healthcare organizations, software is more than a core competency. It practically defines your business.

Schultz: Exactly. As a SaaS provider, we need to always be up. Up-time is our biggest focus. The other part is release management. How do we keep updating our software, staying competitive, being agile along with our developers, and constantly improving ourselves?

Gardner: And you're no johnny-come-lately to the cloud. You’ve been doing SaaS for quite some time.

Schultz: Yes, for approximately 10 years. We were one of the original ones to kick it off in our market. From that, we've grown it, and now it's scalable. We're in multiple countries, and we're looking at how to continue to grow and keep the SaaS model and multi-tenancy as efficient as possible.

Mobile revolution

Gardner: Craig, how about the mobile revolution? How is that impacting your business? Does it matter whether they’re using a tablet to access your services, other devices, or PCs? How is the device end of things affecting you?

Schultz: Good question. We're fully cross-browser. From a platform standpoint, it doesn't matter. We’re actually releasing our Point of Care and related software on the Apple iPad and iPhone. We’re looking at it as if they have a dedicated tablet that they could use in their environment or they have one of the PCs or related items.

Schultz

Gardner: I have to assume, Craig, that this is a mission-critical application for these healthcare organizations. They’re administrating medications, tracking billing, tracking  what takes place through a process along a medical trajectory, all very much in real time, very mission-critical.

Schultz: Absolutely. This is a 24×7 service that’s used all the time. As you say, with medication management we do a closed loop with the pharmacies for ordering. Obviously, safety is the biggest priority for our customers and for us. So on the SaaS service, we need to make sure that all the tools are current. We have our monitoring and our stats. Then, obviously, if there are any issues, incident management is one of the key areas.

Gardner: Tell me how you do operations and development. I believe that with software being so critical, when you do fast iterations for a multi-tenancy environment, DevOps is a priority, but with development and operations, there’s no daylight between them.

We make sure that that’s a defined process, scripted, and then tied into our tools.

Schultz: Exactly. Our development team runs by agile, as a lot of places do. At PointClickCare, we’re looking at a weekly release schedules in general. That means constant change and constant releases. DevOps is a priority. We need to make sure that the QA people have their servers. Then, it goes to production, and there aren't any problems when we release it. We make sure that that’s a defined process, scripted, and then tied into our tools.

Gardner: Given that you’re the Director of Hosting Operations, what do you need in terms of other outside help to get this done? What were the challenges and requirements you had and then how did you fulfill them?

Schultz: What we wanted to solve at this point was to improve our processes, our definitions, and our policies on how we deploy our software and make sure that they’re set on standards. We were looking at an ITSM tool that would bring that framework to us to help us mature and take us to that next level, as we look at how much change and growth we're going through.

Gardner: How long have you been using HP Service Anywhere?

Schultz: We have been using Service Anywhere for three months. At this time, we’ve rolled it out into the whole hosting operations team. We use it for tracking all of our change management, incident management, problem management, then related key performance indicators (KPIs).

Gardner: How did you do it before?

Case system

Schultz: We used a CASE system. It wasn’t defined as a ticketing system, and it was very hard to track information. What made it harder was the lack of searchability within there to find that information. How do you do reporting? How do you really look at the statistics? So we launched this new tool, and that’s taking care of all that.

Gardner: This sounds a bit like changing the wings on an airplane while still flying. Did you find the transition difficult? What was most difficult about it?

Schultz: The transition was made simpler by engaging HP Technology Services. We used them extensively for our training. We did the ITIL training ahead of time with our staff. We used HP services to come in and walk us through this. They’re the experts on the tool.

Probably the biggest difficulty was, as you say, getting the resources to the people that were dedicated to this project while running full speed ahead. There was no delay.

Gardner: I know it's a little early in the roll out, but have there been any indicators of how it's functioning and any metrics of success or return-on-investment (ROI) types of inputs?

Schultz: Our biggest results right now is that 100 percent of changes are tracked in the system. They’re following our change-management process. We can go through, review them, monitor them, look at the results of the changes, and actually get end-to-end process development.

We actually have that closed loop on change and incident management. We’re now tracking all incidents that we weren't before. Because of the system, you can look for them after. So you can build any trajectory or problem management. When you look at the suite of change incidents and problems, we have that full loop in our operations.

The transition was made simpler by engaging HP services. We used them extensively for our training.

From a measurement standpoint, that has reduced the amount of time that it takes for us to actually implement a change. If we’re asked to create a database, create new customers, whatever it might be, we can turn that around a lot faster because there aren't delays in the system.

Gardner: Any thoughts, once you get further into HP Service Anywhere, as to what you'll be integrating this into other activities, further back into the development phase, perhaps associated with code management? Where do you go next?

Schultz: Where we go next is around the new versions and new software. As we bring on the new versions of the software and Service Anywhere, we’re going to implement the new tools. So when we look at the self-service portal, how do we roll that out to the users to be able to connect, create their own requests or, even better, solve their own problems. That will reduce a lot of the load runner IT team and lot of those tickets that we are getting from that.

Looking at some of the integration points, that’s going to be how we automate our changes, our software, and our incidents in the future. That’s going to all tie in the Service Anywhere. As well, we’re looking at rolling it out across the company. That way, everybody uses a centralized tool. It has all the functionality that you need. Develop the KPIs, and run by the numbers and metrics.

You may also be interested in:

More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

Cloud Expo Latest Stories
The 16th International Cloud Expo announces that its Call for Papers is now open. 16th International Cloud Expo, to be held June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
14th International Cloud Expo, held on June 10–12, 2014 at the Javits Center in New York City, featured three content-packed days with a rich array of sessions about the business and technical value of cloud computing, Internet of Things, Big Data, and DevOps led by exceptional speakers from every sector of the IT ecosystem. The Cloud Expo series is the fastest-growing Enterprise IT event in the past 10 years, devoted to every aspect of delivering massively scalable enterprise IT as a service.
Hardware will never be more valuable than on the day it hits your loading dock. Each day new servers are not deployed to production the business is losing money. While Moore’s Law is typically cited to explain the exponential density growth of chips, a critical consequence of this is rapid depreciation of servers. The hardware for clustered systems (e.g., Hadoop, OpenStack) tends to be significant capital expenses. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Mason Katz, CTO and co-founder of StackIQ, to discuss how infrastructure teams should be aware of the capitalization and depreciation model of these expenses to fully understand when and where automation is critical.
Over the last few years the healthcare ecosystem has revolved around innovations in Electronic Health Record (HER) based systems. This evolution has helped us achieve much desired interoperability. Now the focus is shifting to other equally important aspects – scalability and performance. While applying cloud computing environments to the EHR systems, a special consideration needs to be given to the cloud enablement of Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), i.e., the largest single medical system in the United States.
In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Mark Hinkle, Senior Director, Open Source Solutions at Citrix Systems Inc., will provide overview of the open source software that can be used to deploy and manage a cloud computing environment. He will include information on storage, networking(e.g., OpenDaylight) and compute virtualization (Xen, KVM, LXC) and the orchestration(Apache CloudStack, OpenStack) of the three to build their own cloud services. Speaker Bio: Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Source Solutions, at Citrix Systems Inc. He joined Citrix as a result of their July 2011 acquisition of Cloud.com where he was their Vice President of Community. He is currently responsible for Citrix open source efforts around the open source cloud computing platform, Apache CloudStack and the Xen Hypervisor. Previously he was the VP of Community at Zenoss Inc., a producer of the open source application, server, and network management software, where he grew the Zenoss Core project to over 10...
Most of today’s hardware manufacturers are building servers with at least one SATA Port, but not every systems engineer utilizes them. This is considered a loss in the game of maximizing potential storage space in a fixed unit. The SATADOM Series was created by Innodisk as a high-performance, small form factor boot drive with low power consumption to be plugged into the unused SATA port on your server board as an alternative to hard drive or USB boot-up. Built for 1U systems, this powerful device is smaller than a one dollar coin, and frees up otherwise dead space on your motherboard. To meet the requirements of tomorrow’s cloud hardware, Innodisk invested internal R&D resources to develop our SATA III series of products. The SATA III SATADOM boasts 500/180MBs R/W Speeds respectively, or double R/W Speed of SATA II products.
As more applications and services move "to the cloud" (public or on-premise) cloud environments are increasingly adopting and building out traditional enterprise features. This in turn is enabling and encouraging cloud adoption from enterprise users. In many ways the definition is blurring as features like continuous operation, geo-distribution or on-demand capacity become the norm. NuoDB is involved in both building enterprise software and using enterprise cloud capabilities. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Seth Proctor, CTO at NuoDB, Inc., will discuss the experiences from building, deploying and using enterprise services and suggest some ways to approach moving enterprise applications into a cloud model.
Until recently, many organizations required specialized departments to perform mapping and geospatial analysis, and they used Esri on-premise solutions for that work. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dave Peters, author of the Esri Press book Building a GIS, System Architecture Design Strategies for Managers, will discuss how Esri has successfully included the cloud as a fully integrated SaaS expansion of the ArcGIS mapping platform. Organizations that have incorporated Esri cloud-based applications and content within their business models are reaping huge benefits by directly leveraging cloud-based mapping and analysis capabilities within their existing enterprise investments. The ArcGIS mapping platform includes cloud-based content management and information resources to more widely, efficiently, and affordably deliver real-time actionable information and analysis capabilities to your organization.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mac Devine, Distinguished Engineer at IBM, will discuss bringing these three elements together via Systems of Discover.
Cloud and Big Data present unique dilemmas: embracing the benefits of these new technologies while maintaining the security of your organization’s assets. When an outside party owns, controls and manages your infrastructure and computational resources, how can you be assured that sensitive data remains private and secure? How do you best protect data in mixed use cloud and big data infrastructure sets? Can you still satisfy the full range of reporting, compliance and regulatory requirements? In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Derek Tumulak, Vice President of Product Management at Vormetric, will discuss how to address data security in cloud and Big Data environments so that your organization isn’t next week’s data breach headline.
The cloud is everywhere and growing, and with it SaaS has become an accepted means for software delivery. SaaS is more than just a technology, it is a thriving business model estimated to be worth around $53 billion dollars by 2015, according to IDC. The question is – how do you build and scale a profitable SaaS business model? In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Jason Cumberland, Vice President, SaaS Solutions at Dimension Data, will give the audience an understanding of common mistakes businesses make when transitioning to SaaS; how to avoid them; and how to build a profitable and scalable SaaS business.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridstore delivers vmOptimized™ Storage that self-optimizes to each application or VM across both virtual and physical environments. Leveraging a grid architecture, Gridstore delivers the first end-to-end storage QoS to ensure the most important App or VM performance is never compromised. The storage grid, that uses Gridstore’s performance optimized nodes or capacity optimized nodes, starts with as few a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Solgenia, the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Solgenia is the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions. Designed to “Bridge the Gap” between personal and professional social, mobile and cloud user experiences, our solutions help large and medium-sized organizations dramatically improve productivity, reduce collaboration costs, and increase the overall enterprise value by bringing collaboration and infrastructure solutions to the cloud.
Cloud computing started a technology revolution; now DevOps is driving that revolution forward. By enabling new approaches to service delivery, cloud and DevOps together are delivering even greater speed, agility, and efficiency. No wonder leading innovators are adopting DevOps and cloud together! In his session at DevOps Summit, Andi Mann, Vice President of Strategic Solutions at CA Technologies, will explore the synergies in these two approaches, with practical tips, techniques, research data, war stories, case studies, and recommendations.
Enterprises require the performance, agility and on-demand access of the public cloud, and the management, security and compatibility of the private cloud. The solution? In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Simone Brunozzi, VP and Chief Technologist(global role) for VMware, will explore how to unlock the power of the hybrid cloud and the steps to get there. He'll discuss the challenges that conventional approaches to both public and private cloud computing, and outline the tough decisions that must be made to accelerate the journey to the hybrid cloud. As part of the transition, an Infrastructure-as-a-Service model will enable enterprise IT to build services beyond their data center while owning what gets moved, when to move it, and for how long. IT can then move forward on what matters most to the organization that it supports – availability, agility and efficiency.