Rapid deployment of complex infrastructure platform for clinical and patient messaging services

Overview

A successful partnership between WhiteSpider and Softcat delivered a dual-site VSPEX data centre solution for In Practice Systems (INPS), enabling the company to offer a high quality, NHS-accredited hosting platform for clinical messaging services.


This has enabled INPS to further provide hosting services for its Cegedim Group sister companies and third parties to deliver patient-facing and clinical services.

At a glance

  • INPS' data centre project was delayed and at risk of over-running. WhiteSpider were approached to assist with the completion of the project.
  • A technical audit and workshop were undertaken before a high level design was produced.
  • The project was delivered within the tight timescale, implementing a highly available infrastructure platform.
  • The outcome was a more reliable IT infrastructure with greater resiliency.

WhiteSpider and Softcat enhance Vision for Electronic Prescriptions

Softcat, which has a long-term relationship with INPS, was given the task of providing expertise with the capability of delivering a major data centre project that had already been defined and started. Softcat called on WhiteSpider to provide the specific expertise needed to deliver the project.


With technical and commercial challenges in the early part of the project, delivery deadlines were at risk of being missed. This put huge pressure on both Softcat and WhiteSpider to ensure delivery within extremely tight time-scales, working with hardware that had already been purchased. WhiteSpider took on the role of re-defining the high level design and implementing the data centre solution across two London sites. The final solution – built to best practice standards to meet the NHS’s stringent requirements – was completed, tested and handed over to INPS within three months of initial engagement, ensuring INPS could launch its new hosting platform for the healthcare market on time and within budget.

We were pleased to discover that WhiteSpider, in contrast to many third party organisations we have used in the past, added real value to the project. The team brought expert knowledge and commitment and they immediately owned, managed and delivered the project and its outcomes. This allowed us to keep our internal resources fully focused on our other critical projects.

Jeff Pike, INPS

Digital transformation

Turning strategy into reality through the effective use of IT.

In Practice Systems

WhiteSpider, with their deep knowledge of WLAN technologies, worked alongside the company’s IT team to assess the existing design and implement changes that transformed user experience and enabled the use of high-bandwidth applications. WhiteSpider undertook a detailed assessment of the WLAN environment and, after implementing the recommended changes, users were able to reliably access the WiFi for ‘production’ capabilities.


Medical and healthcare software solutions are changing fast as the drive to digitisation increases and the need to move and access patient information across different platforms grows. Professionals from different disciplines need increasingly to collaborate and deliver patient data quickly to where it can be accessed by medical professionals and patients alike. Companies such as INPS are at the forefront of driving and delivering this vision.

The Challenge

A strategic goal of the NHS is to provide digital services that enable patients to obtain and use information about their health, with services such as accessing health records online, booking appointments and arranging online repeat prescriptions. Already at the forefront of delivering this vision, INPS needed to expand its capability of providing NHS digital services and, along with its sister company Cegedim RX, decided to implement a high availability infrastructure platform to host digital clinical services.


The company had already made certain decisions about its new solution with another provider and had procured two EMC VSPEX integrated compute stacks to be sited at its London data centres and connected through pre-existing infrastructure. However, whilst stringent performance characteristics were defined, there was no ‘use-case’ described for the solution. This added to the challenge of how best to configure the system.


Being a complex solution, design challenges and project delays were putting the delivery deadline at risk. INPS needed a rapid fix to bring the project back on track, but its own in-house team was under pressure with other projects and did not have in-house resources with the required skills available. Through its relationship with key supplier Softcat, INPS was introduced to WhiteSpider who possessed the right experience in designing and deploying complex data centre solutions as well as a track record in delivering under critical time constraints.

Thanks to WhiteSpider we have a very satisfied customer. Their professional, expert approach helped us to hit tough targets. We had a really tight time frame to operate in. WhiteSpider pulled out all the stops and we had all parties round a table within two weeks of initial engagement.

Krishna Keshvara, Softcat Ltd.

The Solution

In a very tight schedule, WhiteSpider developed a best practice solution to meet the required outcomes, creating a dualsite EMC VSPEX solution that integrated into the existing infrastructure and delivered a high availability unified compute platform. Key elements of WhiteSpider’s engagement included:


  • High Level Design - a document giving an overview of the technologies to be utilised, suggested use of features, functionality and connectivity and configuration standards and best practices to be implemented.
  • Deployment and Implementation - the hands-on implementation by the WhiteSpider team.
  • Project Management - experienced project management capability for a complex project.
  • Documentation - the creation of detailed documentation that demonstrates that the solution is built to best practice standards, giving INPS’s customers confidence in the availability of the hosting services.

As well as the design and implementation, WhiteSpider ensured the project was managed efficiently, working closely with both INPS and Softcat throughout all aspects of the delivery. Whilst, at the outset, the basic decision and procurement had already taken place, WhiteSpider reviewed and adapted the design, changing and adding equipment and licences to make the solution viable and capable of being flexibly expanded to meet changing demand.

About the ea4 Framework

WhiteSpider’s approach, based on its ea4 framework, utilised a four-phase methodology:


Auditing

WhiteSpider performed a detailed analysis of the business requirements and existing infrastructure, carrying out technical workshops to assess business requirements and translating these into an IT project strategy and approach plan to ensure the final solution was both viable and fit for purpose.


Architecture

The overall solution plan was developed, creating high level and low-level designs to ensure the solution would meet the agreed objectives. The new infrastructure was designed to build the two data centres into a coherent solution across two sites, with built-in resilience and disaster recovery. The VSPEX design included solutions from Cisco (UCS and Nexus), VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and Brocade. WhiteSpider worked with these technologies and suppliers to design an overall best practice solution.


Alignment

A key part of the project approach was a pre-implementation testing phase. The WhiteSpider team pre-built the two sets of hardware connected together in a lab environment to test the functionality, resilience and DR of the system. The team worked alongside EMC, who built the storage element that was integrated into the final solution. After successful testing, WhiteSpider deployed the infrastructure to INPS’s two London sites, building the solution in line with the agreed designs.


Assessment

Post-implementation, WhiteSpider and the INPS technical teams performed on-site testing and acceptance to ensure the solution performed as required. The teams worked closely together to ensure effective knowledge transfer and training for the INPS team. A significant element of the success of the project was the meticulous documentation delivered by WhiteSpider, which provides significant benefits in transparency of the system and future management by the INPS technical team.

Outcomes

WhiteSpider delivered a fully functioning new dual-site solution with resilience, disaster recovery and full documentation within less than three months, ensuring INPS was able to launch its new hosting platform for the healthcare market on time and on target.


The final solution is based on the EMC Cloud infrastructure solution VSPEX. This is a flexible architecture solution that allows IT to deploy a virtualised infrastructure quickly and consistently in order to consolidate servers and applications that help reduce capital and operational expenses. It was delivered to best practice standards and configured to meet the NHS’s stringent requirements.


Further, the flexibility of the architecture has been successfully put to test, with the current use of the data centre, initially designed to host electronic prescription messaging, now being used as a flexible, clinical hosting platform. INPS is now able to offer hosting to other members of the Cegedim Group and to third parties wishing to host their services on a platform that is accredited for NHS Codes of Connection. The detailed design documentation supplied by WhiteSpider and the high quality of the implementation are seen by INPS as making it easier to sell the hosting services, thereby supporting the growth of the business.

The targets we gave WhiteSpider were extremely challenging, both in terms of deadlines and the complexity of the project. The team rose to the challenge and delivered a solution on time and to best practice standards and their impressive documentation has extended the usability of the solution. All in all, WhiteSpider was a highly professional and capable company.

Jeff Pike, INPS

About WhiteSpider

Established in 2012, WhiteSpider specialises in providing consultancy, strategic advice, and practical support in enterprise service architectures. The company helps organisations to standardise their IT and communications infrastructures by using a unique new service framework – ea4 – developed specifically with the needs of global enterprises in mind. Headquartered in the UK, WhiteSpider works with global companies across a range of industry sectors, including financial services, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, construction and motorsport.


About Softcat

Softcat is a leading provider of software licensing, hardware, security and related IT services. Founded in 1993 it is privately owned and currently employs over 800 people. It achieved a turnover in excess of £500 million in its last financial year. The company sells and supports products and solutions from all the world’s leading IT companies. On all its portfolio products and solutions it offers a full range of services, including advice and guidance, technical design, product sourcing, implementation, support and project management. It enjoys a trading relationship with over 5,000 longstanding customers, predominantly from the UK corporate sector but also including large enterprises, small businesses and public sector organisations. As an organisation Softcat cares passionately about two things – outstanding employee satisfaction and world-class customer service. It believes the former drives the latter.

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