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Providence Health Enhances Microsoft Azure Migration with Continuous Cloud & Hybrid Optimization

1,900

1,900 workloads migrated to Microsoft Azure in ten months

$2M

$2M savings through cloud optimization actions without any impact on application performance

10%

Reduction of more than 10% of Providence’s on-premises VM footprint in less than one year

About Providence Health

  • Pursuing innovative ways to transform health care
  • Serving the poor and vulnerable
  • Making health care more affordable and convenient
  • Adapted to COVID-19 and provided a large-scale vaccination program

Visit providence.org

Accelerating Cloud Adoption and Application Migrations During a Pandemic

With 51 hospitals and over 1,000 clinics, Providence Health and its caregivers are dedicated to serving their community. Keeping patients healthy is at the forefront of their mission. They continue to serve more people, advance best practices, and continue their more than 100-year tradition of serving the poor and vulnerable.

When Rick Stover joined Providence in late 2019 as SVP of IS Infrastructure and CTO, he was faced with an enormous budget problem that seemed to grow by the day. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the need to reduce waste and maintain cost efficiency.

Just as the pandemic was beginning, Bryan de Boer joined the Providence Health team as Executive Director, responsible for Providence’s Microsoft Azure migration. This migration was in the early stages – and a massive undertaking. In parallel, there were other initiatives in progress to remediate technical debt and rationalize their portfolio.

On top of the technical challenges of the Microsoft Azure migration, there were also cultural and skills challenges. Many users were resistant to the move to the cloud due to misconceptions, lack of infrastructure knowledge, and lack of understanding of the advantages of public cloud. Extensive use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products and lack of in-house software development created an application owner community that was primarily “application analysts” with limited infrastructure knowledge. This gave control to the third-party application suppliers and put Providence in the backseat, where they were unable to establish common engineering practices and standards needed to modernize their application portfolio. As Bryan recalled, “The very ideas of cloud elasticity, flexibility, and optimization were completely foreign to this enterprise… Servers were fixed resources that you bought; they were physical resources that just sat there, and it was a one-time upfront purchase. There was a conceptual paradigm shift that needed to occur.”

However, COVID-19 acted as a catalyst to accelerate their cloud migration. The Providence team built out a new COVID-19 vaccination tracking and scheduling application that gave them a use case to move to Microsoft Azure. With this rapid test case, the Admin Tech application team proved that they could solve significant problems in a very short period with the agility of the cloud. This became a key proof point in driving the internal cultural change to show the value of cloud infrastructure.

“Because we had the partnership with Turbonomic, it expedited our ability to execute. It helped us tell the story and gave us better data. Instead of it being a two or three-year journey for people to start to conceptualize that cloud is elastic, we showed how we could use the cloud to better manage costs and performance.”

Bryan de Boer
Executive Director
Providence Health

The Journey to Cloud Elasticity Stretches to On-Premises

Through persistent education of all stakeholders – which Bryan even noted was “fun” – Providence overcame their cultural challenges around the cloud and expedited their cloud elasticity journey. In just 10 months, more than 1,900 workloads were safely migrated to Microsoft Azure, with a total infrastructure footprint of about 3,000 workloads. Providence achieved more than $2M in savings through optimization actions while assuring application performance.

One ingredient to Providence’s success was the adoption of Turbonomic, both as an optimization platform and strategic partner. Using Turbonomic, Providence proved that automation actions were safe – especially for the literally life-saving applications required for their patients’ health.

Not only were they able to migrate – they were also able to advance beyond a lift-and-shift approach to optimize their infrastructure as they moved to Microsoft Azure, cleaning up their environment in the process. “Project Tetris” was born at the onset of Turbonomic adoption at Providence to help optimize their on-premises compute, and it remains a key program for the Providence team today. By reducing on-premises costs and waste, they freed up financial and human resources – which can now be invested into modern and secure engineering practices. Providence leveraged Turbonomic to drive more structured and rigorous on-premises simplification efforts. By continuing to optimize their VMware estate, consolidating underutilized hosts, and shutting down unused capacity, the Providence team was able to reduce more than 10% of their on-premises VM footprint in less than a year.

Overall, the team at Providence was able to achieve the following business outcomes:

  • Fully automating scale actions of Microsoft Azure workloads (IaaS and PaaS, such as Azure SQL Databases) based on resource demand and utilization
  • Scaling Azure Managed Disk volumes and moving between tiers based on IOPS and Throughput utilization
  • Suspending 18% of non-production workloads on Microsoft Azure after hours, an approach that yielded more than $165,000 in savings
  • Deleting waste, such as unattached and forgotten volumes and idle VMs, which saved more than $100,000
  • Maximizing discounts by leveraging Microsoft Azure cost models such as Reserved Instances (RIs) and Azure Hybrid Use Benefits
  • Safely removing over 100 hosts from their on-premises data center by leveraging Turbonomic to safely increase VM:host density
  • Reducing power consumption, software licensing costs, ticket/incident volume, patch compliance activities, and OEM maintenance costs

Providence’s digital transformation is far from over as they journey to become a modern, industry-leading healthcare services conglomerate. Throughout this journey, Turbonomic will remain an integral part of Providence’s strategy in order to simplify their on-premises ecosystem and optimize deployment of their new applications on Microsoft Azure IaaS and PaaS services.

“We purchased Turbonomic because we wanted visibility into our workloads and the related operating costs as we moved from a CAPEX to OPEX world. We want to expose cost as a new dimension to our engineering teams, so it becomes part of their DNA. Developers care about memory, CPU, and cores, and in today’s world they need to care about the cost component. Turbonomic has been critical to us on that front.”

Rick Stover
Chief Technology Officer
Providence Health

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