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UConn Health is a leading academic medical center in the northeastern United States whose mission spans clinical care, medical education, and research. UConn Health is home to the School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, John Dempsey Hospital, UConn Medical Group, UConn Health Partners, University Dentists, and a thriving research enterprise. It provides nearly US$1 billion in services annually in the region.

Because UConn Health receives funding from the State of Connecticut, which has undergone budget cuts, the organization found itself with a distinct need to trim IT costs, and turned to Microsoft to help them make their vision a reality. With help from Infront Consulting Group, UConn Health migrated its large VMware infrastructure to a private cloud built on the Hyper-V technology in Windows Server 2012 R2. By making the switch to Microsoft, UConn Health will avoid more than US$600,000 in VMware licensing fees over five years, halve its server count, trim IT management costs by a third, and improve the availability of clinical and business applications.

We caught up with Dass Sinnappen, IT Director, UConn Health, to tell us more about their IT modernization strategy and what they hope to accomplish going forward with Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 R2.

Q: Can you tell me about the business problem you were trying to solve and why you chose Microsoft?

Dass: We had multiple versions of VMware running, and we wanted to standardize our environment as we built a private cloud to handle our many and varied workloads. In the end, we determined that Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V would best suit our long-term IT goals while helping us significantly trim cost.

Q: You previously ran VMware – why did you make the choice to switch to Windows Server 2012 R2 and Hyper-V?

Dass: It was all part of a big cost cutting process, since we were spending a lot of money on licensing. When we bought servers previously, it included the price of a VMware license for each server, which really adds up. Plus, because there have been so many enhancements to Hyper-V, it was the best way to go for functionality as well as cost savings as we looked to building out our private cloud strategy.

Q: What was your experience migrating from VMware-to-Hyper-V, was it difficult?

Dass: We did have our challenges getting started, as our environment was built with no standardization. Fortunately we were hooked up with a very good partner, Infront Consulting Group, and they really helped us. So once we got it going, it was a breeze. Down time was limited. We were able to migrate with the system down for just an hour before everything was good to go. We gave application users an estimate of two hours for the migration, and we did it in half the time, and we haven’t had anything fail so far.

Q: What are the most important benefits you have experienced by switching to Windows Server and System Center? Anything that pleasantly surprised you?

Dass: In addition to the cost savings, another important benefit for us is the consolidated management that allows us to manage everything with System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).  Now we don’t have to have multiple tools. For someone to come in and just get started on it, it is just easy. We can also deliver a server in Hyper-V in 45 min to an hour fully patched thru SCVMM Our end goals was to get to a standardized platform so we can keep expanding quickly and seamlessly, and this allows us to do that.

We’ve also found that Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 R2 is, simply, a great product. Once the business units saw the potential of hosting servers on our Hyper-V environment, at a very low cost, we have been asked to put more critical apps on it all the time. We have already moved many of our critical applications into Hyper-V now, and they are running well. Additionally, we used to have four or five people managing our IT environment, now we have two. We were able to move resources into different areas and utilize them on other projects that we have.

Q: Has Windows Server and System Center helped with or enabled a cloud strategy for UConn Health? If yes, can you tell me a little more about how?

Dass: Our move to Microsoft technology was a part of our strategy to build and utilize a private cloud to improve functionality and to decrease cost. As to the second part of your question, we are currently testing Azure Site Recovery as part of the Technology Adoption Program (TAP).  We hope to be able to use Azure as our disaster recovery site. As a health and state agency, we have to be careful what data goes out to the cloud, but soon it will be easy to recover data if something happens to our data center.

Q: For other customers that might be considering migrating from VMware to Windows Server and System Center, what advice would you give them?

Dass: We have talked to a lot of other customers, and so many have been fearful because they have been so used to their VMware experience. My advice would be to just take the step forward to Hyper-V; you won’t regret it. The cost savings and huge benefits of running a standardized Windows platform are well worth it. We’ve been running this system for over a year and it has been extremely stable.

Q: What are your next steps with Windows Server and System Center?

Dass: We’ve started building a cluster environment. We had 18 servers and are consolidating them by moving all the virtual machines (nearly 300) into four new clustered HP DL580s with Intel E7 processors and a 10GB network. When all is completed our environment will be much simpler yet even more robust. We are also in the process of creating a self-service portal for users to create servers for testing.

Q: What are you excited about with Windows Server and System Center in the future?

Dass: As I’ve seen how virtualization has changed at Microsoft, the road can only get better. I’m sure new and better features will be coming in the next version of Windows Server. We are excited for what the next version will bring us!