The pace of digital transformation has only quickened in recent months. Although each organization will take a unique path, cloud-ready infrastructure has emerged as a common denominator. And while they might not yet leverage multiple cloud platforms, for most organizations, a hybrid cloud approach is the best way to support this likely future state.
As in other disciplines, digitalization is gaining ground in the welfare, church and healthcare sector, too. In this context, SoCura is positioned as both pioneer and strategic consultant. SoCura, a subsidiary of the Malteser relief agency, provides accounting, IT and personnel services to organizations in the welfare, church and healthcare sector. Alongside Malteser, its main customer, the company’s 350 employees also support an array of Caritas associations and dioceses from its three offices. Two cloud products account for its core business: the Malteser Private Cloud (MPC) and the Wohlfahrt.Cloud (“Welfare.Cloud”, or WFC). SoCura operates devices and provides mobile communication support for its customers, provisioning and administering the full spectrum of (leased or purchased) devices. SoCura also operates application systems such as SAP, the ORBIS hospital information system and the Vivendi documentation system for social services, nursing services and home emergency call systems.
Problems caused by incompatible software components
SoCura first implemented the WFC cloud solution after expanding its portfolio to include external customers outside the Malteser relief agency. Unlike the Malteser Private Cloud (MPC), which has run on VMware’s vSphere platform from the outset, a different hypervisor was initially used for the WFC cloud. “Over time, we found that administration was more laborious, and we experienced functional restrictions,” explains Mike Melcher, Head of IT Service at SoCura. “And in any case, it makes sense from an operational perspective to concentrate on just a single system, as that lets the IT specialists drill down into greater detail. Trying to do that across software components from different vendors is very difficult and generally more expensive.” The principal challenge was to align the virtualization platforms during live operation – preferably with no disturbance to day-to-day business – while not losing sight of the customer’s specific requirements.
The decision to modernize SoCura’s IT infrastructure – including services, processes, structures, servers, server communication, storage etc. – and at the same time to harmonize the virtualization platforms for the two clouds was taken in 2018. “We decided to use VMware vSphere as the virtualization platform for both ‘worlds’ in order to simplify their management,” Melcher notes. “We have been working with VMware for many years and our experience has been very positive.” The high availability delivered by vSphere from VMware benefits SoCura by ensuring that storage management runs more smoothly: Overprovisioning facilitates the more balanced use of resources across peak and off-peak times.
The integrated platform for digital workplaces also simplifies the onboarding of new staff and volunteers, which in turn makes it easier to recruit young talents who expect a lot in terms of new work and IT equipment. Above all, though, it eases the burden on staff during their day-to-day work and saves huge amounts of time. An access app makes Workspace ONE easier to use and improves the separation of private and professional use. Workspace ONE’s modern graphical user interface (GUI) also enhances the user experience.
Time and cost savings, but not at the expense of security
The VMware projects are now saving SoCura time and money by simplifying management – and thanks to the fact that the VMware products deployed fully comply with the strict security requirements needed for ISO 27001 accreditation. User authentication is subject to clearly defined criteria. Security measures include multifactor authentication, administration IDs, firewall security and sandboxing, for example. The aim is to ward off both external and internal attacks by using app blockers and white lists – all under the protective cover of VMware’s “zero trust” model.
The WFC cloud is already 100 percent virtualized, while the figure is 98 percent for the Malteser Private Cloud. Using well over 1,000 virtual machines empowers SoCura to give external customers a secure and, above all, stable IT infrastructure. That is important, because almost all the applications managed by SoCura are classed as critical. “Especially in healthcare, critical systems must boast high availability, but also high performance and flexibility,” says Andreas Zander, Head of SoCura’s IT Infrastructure department. “Our experience to date confirms that VMware is up to the job.” The Malteser Service Center is a prime example: This is where the Malteser home emergency call service is centered, which fields all emergency calls from more than 130,000 customers. This center is absolutely critical and must never fail under any circumstances: Failure here could literally be a matter of life or death. Accordingly, redundancy features and very fast response times are guaranteed around the clock. It would be inconceivable to provide this kind of infrastructure for other systems.
SoCura’s staff benefits from Workspace ONE’s unchanged user interface, which facilitates simple, seamless and intuitive use. Thanks to the VMware IT infrastructure, SoCura and its customers are well placed to rise to the challenges presented both by new work and a young generation of talents. SoCura in turn leaves welfare, church and healthcare organizations excellently equipped to advance their digitalization and able to fully rely on secure, innovative IT services.
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