Health care giant builds public cloud on Oracle Enterprise Manager

Cerner has built a public cloud allowing clients to use a cloud-based version of Oracle Enterprise Manager to handle health care applications on Oracle Database in the clients’ own data centers.

Strict federal guidelines around patient privacy, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), leave some Oracle health care shops -- doctor’s offices and hospitals, for example -- wary  of putting patients’ medical records in someone else’s hands.

For the most part that hasn’t been a problem for Cerner Corp. The Kansas City, Mo.-based health care IT company, with almost $2 billion in revenue last year, has been around since 1979 and hosting customers’ sensitive medical records in its data centers for almost 10 years. It is deployed in more than 9,000 facilities across the world. But yes, there are still those customers who want to store their patients’ data in Oracle databases on servers in their own data centers. And so Cerner built out a public cloud with tools for those shops to manage their own databases.

Skybox, as it is called, is built on Oracle Enterprise Manager (OEM) and offers tools to manage Cerner Millennium -- the company’s health care application -- on top of Oracle databases in clients’ own data centers. Millennium helps health care organizations do things like document how a patient was cared for, submit orders and automate billing. Only a few months into production, Skybox also provides cloud services relating to mobile messaging, storage management and security.

“I think about 80 percent of Cerner customers are running in our data centers,” said Tony Myers, senior technology architect at Cerner. “They turn IT over to us and their hardware can go away. But there are still 20% who host it themselves.”

The Skybox management tool’s software lives in Cerner’s data centers. Meanwhile, its Millennium application and Oracle databases sit in clients’ own data centers.

Skybox uses OEM 11g as its foundation -- Cerner customized OEM to take advantage of features such as user-defined metrics and auto-corrective actions. Myers said the goal is to minimize the time Cerner customers’ database administrators (DBA) spend managing the environment.

Here’s how it works: A software agent runs on a Cerner client’s database. That agent can connect with Cerner’s Skybox software, allowing the DBA to access the Enterprise Manager console without it sitting on its own servers.

“We wanted to build and create enriched management and monitoring capabilities in OEM for Millennium,” Myers said. “We wanted to be able to create a highly tailored OEM tool for Millennium itself.”

Next up, Cerner is looking to upgrade to Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c, which Oracle announced at its OpenWorld conference last month. Myers said he likes several features of the new version but wants to make sure that any upgrade Cerner makes incurs no downtime.

“We have created a dependency on Enterprise Manager, so anytime we have to take it down, it can be dangerous for us,” Myers said. “We want zero-downtime maintenance.”

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