Maurice Kasner, VP Information Technology, Explains Why Leumit Health Services Selected Med-1 To Host its Main Servers Room

 Who is Leumit?

Founded in 1993, Leumit Health Care Services promotes health services and health education, and provides advanced medical services to its members. The Fund has 720,000 member clients (2012) – about 9% of the population in Israel with health insurance. Leumit has about 320 branches throughout Israel, and employs about 3,000 workers.

The Leumit Information Systems Department has about 165 employees providing computer services to all its hundreds of branches and for the management and maintenance of a complex and diverse computer system with includes various types of platforms. We asked Maurice Kasner, VP Information Technology at Leumit, to tell us about the process.

 

How the request came about

As a widely distributed organization, Kasner explains, the Leumit IT requires as much concentration of information and ICT systems as possible. Each of the hundreds of Leumit branches is largely dependent on the computer center, and requires a particularly high level of redundancy, survivability, communications free of malfunctions, and high performance levels. All of this requires Leumit to maintain a computer center with expensive infrastructure that must be constantly upgraded and expanded. The rate of growth in the systems led the personnel of the IT Systems Department to the conclusion that the computer center’s physical infrastructure demands many redundant management resources.

“Up until late 2005, we kept Leumit’s entire computer center in central Tel Aviv in one of the office locations of Beit Eliyahu,” Kasner adds. “The crowded office floor forced us to constantly cope with the challenges of additional electricity and air-conditioning, floor space for servers, creating power backup systems, and perfecting the security mechanisms. At a certain stage, we also had to deal with the fact that the building’s construction was inadequate for the weight load per sq.m. created by the servers, the UPS systems, and the rest of the systems in the data center. At the same time, we were looking for a solution to higher levels of protection to provide business continuity and survivability in case of various disaster events.

“At that juncture, Leumit was at a crossroads. The obvious question was whether to continue expanding the existing servers room, or to search for more effective alternatives and greater survivability.”

 

Why we turned to Med-1

Kasner says, “An analysis of the possibilities at our disposal led Leumit to a decision to transfer its computer center to Med-1’s hosting facilities. The choice of Med-1’s hosting facilities was in understanding that this environment provided the most comprehensive solution for an environment of secured hosting servers with 99.99% guaranteed availability, the most advanced electricity and air-conditioning systems of their kind, and security circuits at extremely high standards.

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“The need to expand and upgrade the servers room provided an excellent opportunity for us to examine in depth the volume of resources we were investing in each of the data center parts,” Kasner explains. “An orderly and systematic data analysis led us to the realization that we were investing enormous amounts of time and resources in areas in which we had no added value. We realized that our expertise should be focused in developing the IT systems, not designing electrical and air-conditioning systems or various kinds of security circuits. That was the stage at which we began contemplating the idea of transferring the data center to a hosting environment. A cost comparison at the accounting level showed us immediately that we would save on costs in switching from Capex investments to Opex investments, which was of course more appropriate for us.

“The process of relocating our data center to Med-1’s more secure underground facilities in Tirat Carmel was accompanied by systematic and methodical planning, supported by Med-1 specialists, thereby facilitating a smooth glitch-free transition. The operation of the old servers room was terminated at 7:00 p.m.; the servers were loaded onto a convoy of trucks and reassembled at Med-1’s facilities, and were back to working smoothly and continuously by 7:00 a.m. the next morning. All this was done without the users being aware of the complex operations which took place behind the scenes.

“The process included a detailed mapping and survey of the existing inventory of the computer room (enabling us to identify redundancies and substantially save on hardware and software costs); conducting a risk survey and preparing alternatives for each risk; detailed scheduling of the disassembly and setup of the servers room and assigning specific responsibility to each party in the process, as well as a variety of other actions designed to provide a solution for any possible malfunction, all of which was based on Med-1’s vast experience in relocating computer centers.

“The system which was set up is located in a special cage containing servers and communications equipment fully owned by Leumit to which its personnel has exclusive access. The Leumit computer environment at Med-1 today contains dozens of meters of floor space, a power allocation of tens of kVA, and finger services performed by the integrator.”

 

The Situation Today

“Transferring Leumit’s data center to Med-1’s facilities has created a new era for us – an era in which Leumit staff focus on its core activity of developing IT systems. Med-1’s high availability and redundancy standards give us peace of mind and unlimited growth capabilities,” Kasner says.

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”After over seven years of running our computer center at Med-1’s facilities, I must say that it is difficult for me to imagine things otherwise,” Kasner says with a smile. “Except for cases in which we install new equipment in the data center, we almost never see the place. This is the best example of outsourcing operations, which provides all the advantages of complete control of the systems on the one hand, and dispensing with all the bother involved in creating the infrastructure for them on the other.”

Kasner emphasizes that the main value for him lies in Med-1’s ability to provide a clear and well-defined SLA for an array of infrastructure, which formerly would have required large-scale management and maintenance resources.

“For us, the entire subject of infrastructure has become completely transparent,” Kasner points out. “In all recent years, the Med-1 work environment has provided us continuous infrastructure free of malfunctions, and has enabled us to avoid the need to deal with complex tasks of upgrading power systems, investments in renovating air-conditioning, and upgrading security mechanisms and communications systems. This frees us to concentrate on IT systems, which is our core activity. As an IT systems manager, a full gamut of worries has been lifted from me… I know with certainty that at Med-1, I have reliable infrastructure without malfunctions. As you know, the strength of every chain is measured by the strength of its weakest link. For us, redundancy and survivability have been this link. Once it was stepped up to the high level provided by Med-1, the entire chain was reinforced.”

Summary of the advantages of implementing Leumit’s data center at Med-1’s facilities:

  • Leumit can focus on its core activity of developing information systems;
  • A comprehensive solution to the challenges of construction, electricity, air-conditioning, generators, physical security, communications, etc.;
  • Obtaining 99.99% SLA services enabling the client to implement a BCP plan;
  • A transition from Capex to Opex;
  • Med-1 facilities rely on one of the world’s most stringent physical security systems.
  • The facility’s security system features the highest standards for both the installed systems and the security procedures used there;
  • The number of external and internal security circuits: a total of eight security circuits;
  • High levels of compartmentalization between the various sections within the facility;
  • A handpicked and highly trained security team, with thorough reliability checks;
  • All doors and entrances are monitored by an entry control system, including proximity cards, biometric palm readers, and filtering cells that provide maximal compartmentalization between the various parts of the facility, and for the approach route of every visitor.

Kasner sums up:

“Our many years of experience with the hosting of Leumit’s computer center at the Med-1 facilities have proved to us beyond a shadow of a doubt the many advantages of peace of mind from working in this model. During the entire hosting period, Med-1 personnel have provided us with professional knowledge and a high level of service that have made working there smooth, transparent, and glitch-free. As an IT systems manager, I feel much safer and secure in the knowledge that our IT systems, the brain of our organization, are in safe hands.”