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CHU Charleroi

CHU Charleroi successfully migrates to the most recent desktop virtualization environment

Background

CHU (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire) Charleroi is a public hospital group, offering 1.424 beds, with about 4.500 employees and more than 500 doctors offering services in five hospitals and multiple polyclinics and medical centers, spread over a vast region from Charleroi to Chimay and Philippeville. On a yearly basis, CHU Charleroi provides about 400.000 consults.
The CHU Charleroi is the result of various mergers and centralization efforts. This also means that the ICT infrastructure of the entire group was at first a very heterogeneous environment, which was very hard to manage and maintain. The variety of devices and operating systems spread over a large number of sites had prompted the ICT department in 2003 already to centralize the data and applications and to make them available using VMWare on the server side and Citrix combined with AppSense on the client side.
Over the years, this Citrix environment became outdated and the number of simultaneous connections grew gradually. That is why in 2013 CHU Charleroi decided to implement a new infrastructure for use throughout all CHU sites. This infrastructure would consist of a heavily virtualized (using VMware and XenServer) server environment and a combination of Citrix XenApp and Appsense for an easy deployment of virtualized desktops in a highly distributed environment. A completely new environment, in fact: although it consisted of the latest releases of the same technology as before, this was much more than your average upgrade.

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Challenge

Expertise in XenApp, Appsense and VMware: a rare combination

The choice of a reliable implementation partner was actually less difficult than it might seem. “Implementing such a major upgrade requires lots of specific experience and expertise, in project management as well as in the various required technologies”, explains Jean-Pierre Binon, ICT Director at CHU Charleroi, “SecureLink was one of the few candidates to be experienced in all these areas, so we were soon convinced that they were the best team for the job.”
SecureLink did not betray CHU Charleroi’s trust, on the contrary. They combined their expertise in the various required technologies with an efficient project management. In order to simplify and speed up the implementation process, SecureLink has developed its own implementation tool, called Taskflow. This is an automation tool that helps automate deployment and maintenance of software solutions, and thus contributes to the acceleration and consistency of development and deployment. The TaskFlow framework can be easily extended and customized where needed, and integrates easily with standard solutions, such as Citrix, XenApp, XenDesktop, Provisioning Services, Microsoft RDS, and Vmware View. Jean-Pierre Binon: “The entire DTAP (development, test, acceptance, production) cycle is centralized and accelerated, not only for this major upgrade, but also for every future minor or major update. A welcome assistance in an IT environment, where change is the only constant.

Technology used

Solution

Everybody happy with virtualized environment

The ICT department at CHU Charleroi is pleased with the new environment, says Jean-Pierre Binon: “Management of applications and devices, even of remote printers, has never been easier. The number of SPOF’s (single points of failure) has decreased significantly, thus also reducing the number of interventions required from the ICT team. We have managed to create a safe environment for all mobile devices entering our premises, by isolating them from the corporate network, and have thereby increased the entire system security. And we have reached a point where virtualization has become industrialized: adding, changing and deleting nodes has never been simpler.”
The end users also appreciate the added comfort and possibilities this new environment has created, adds Jean-Pierre Binon:“Our medical staff enjoys the increased mobility that this environment has enabled: you can just end your session, go home, and pick up the session exactly where you left it. The connection time and session recovery time are dramatically reduced as well, which contributes to the overall feeling of user-friendliness of the new environment.”

“Not without Citrix”

Perhaps the most surprising result of the entire upgrade is the change in sentiment towards Citrix as the standard user environment, concludes Jean-Pierre Binon: “There used to be a time when the end users blamed Citrix for everything that went wrong, even when Citrix had nothing to do with it. This has gradually changed towards a more neutral and therefore positive sentiment: no complaints usually means that ICT has done a good job. But the ultimate compliment for the Citrix came from the nursing department. When we moved the entire ICT infrastructure to the new hospital Marie Curie, the nurses all insisted on working with Citrix thin clients and nothing else. We have come a long way since the early days.”

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