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tal side,” says Wright, “once we showed them the speed and the mobility that the virtual desktop and the cloud bring, they were sold.” “Over at the research institute,” he continues, “they have a lot of programs that I don’t yet have packaged in the cloud. Even though it may initially require a slightly stronger sales pitch on my part than it took in the hospital, I am confi dent that our cloud will be able to handle the much wider application diversity that is at the research institute, especially as we continue to provision VDI.”


Virtual desktop computing Using a virtual desktop infrastructure, what many refer to as (VDI), allows for the creation of bespoke desktop environ- ments containing end-user appropriate applications that are accessible through zero-client devices. “We possess about 5,500 zero-client


devices,” Wright explains. “T ese devices take four seconds to boot up, and when you log in they fetch a specifi c desktop for you. If you are a clinician, it will give you a clinical desktop that has a few more ap- plications on it than the normal desktop. If you are a non-clinical worker, you will get the non-clinical desktop, which has mostly the productivity, time and ERP systems.” To achieve this dual-desktop environ- ment using their private cloud, Seattle Children’s looked to their long-time de- velopment partner, Citrix, for help. “T ey have been there ‘hand and glove’ with us,” says Wright. “In the medical side of the house, a lot of our major clinical applica- tions are front ended with a Citrix XenApp server, which makes it easy for us to go with a Citrix XenDesktop.” Calvin Hsu, Vice President of Product


Marketing, Desktops and Apps at Citrix, is very familiar with Seattle Children’s cloud computing strategies, and he believes other facilities can benefi t from their practices. “Seattle Children’s uses software from Cerner and EpicCare; two major health- care applications that are commonly used in the industry. T e way that they deliver those applications is they take the client portion of it, the part that would nor- mally run on the desktop or PC under


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someone’s desk, and they install that on a XenApp or XenDesktop server in their data center,” states Hsu. “Our software handles the connection to the end point, then through a set of technology we call HDX, we take the screen representation of that application and we optimize it. We then push it out over the network so that what shows up on their screen is the actual interface of that application, but it’s actually running somewhere in the data center. All in all, it’s a simple process that any facility can exploit.”


Unexpected benefi ts By using their private cloud and creat- ing two distinct desktops for its staff , Seattle Children’s has seen an increase in both productivity and end-user sat- isfaction. At the same time, Wright has seen a handful of unplanned benefi ts as well. “With a zero-client desktop, it runs


at seven watts of power, whereas a PC will run at 70 watts of power,” says Wright. “We fi gure we are saving about $100 per year, per zero-client device, as compared to what a PC would have been. We have 5,500 of those devices in use, which equates to about a half- a-million dollars in power savings each year. T at was a benefi t that we did not really count on. We already knew zero-client desktops were cheaper than running a PC and easier to maintain than a PC, but what we did not nec- essarily know is that we could have calculated that utility cost ahead of time and that savings becomes pretty substantial when you start using more than 1,000 machines.” In addition to tremendous power savings, Hsu says there are some IT operational aspects that improve as well. “For example,” he says, “when IT has to patch an application, it could potentially take days to complete using the traditional sort of PC man- agement method depending on how many end points there are. Let’s say you are trying to schedule a sequence of patching events and do those over night when fewer people are working and not paying attention. Industry


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averages say you are doing great if 80 percent of those patches the next day work without failure. T at means 20 percent have to be remediated. T at then requires someone from IT going out to that end point, out to that em- ployee’s desk, and trying to fi gure out what’s wrong. So from an operational standpoint, there is a tremendous amount of savings there, and that time saving can be easily translated to a dollar amount.” Another benefi t of using a zero- client and a private cloud involves PC refresh costs. “T is is a compel- ling argument for some of the cost justifi cations relative to provisioning a cloud computing environment,” says Hsu. “Now that an application is not literally consuming the CPU cycles of a device, it means that the end-point device can be anything. So while the application may get upgraded, and it may have CPU or higher memory re- quirements than the previous version, since it is running in the data center, one can more easily load-balance re- sources. IT does not have to upgrade all the end points for that new piece of software. Instead of having, say a three-year life cycle of a PC, IT may be able to extend that to fi ve years, six years or eight years. A change in hardware is not required until that device breaks, and when it breaks IT can replace it with any device they choose. It doesn’t have to be necessar- ily a powerful end-point machine and, again, we are seeing more and more healthcare facilities justifying the cost


Wes Wright, Chief Information Offi cer at Seattle Children's Hospital


March 2014 11


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