The Flemish Social Protection (Vlaamse sociale Bescherming / VSB) is in charge of policies and management of social protection in Flanders. The Flemish Social Protection Fund acts as the coordinating body, managing the accreditation, subsidies and control of the Flemish care insurance providers. Flemish Care Insurance (Vlaamse Zorgkas / VZK) is one of six Flemish care insurance schemes. It is the only one managed by the Flemish government. The other five are part of mutual insurance organizations. VZK is responsible for handling the daily operations of the Flemish care insurance for its members. The insurance offers an allowance for non-medical costs, assigned to persons in need of care, at home or in a residential care facility. Among other things, VZK manages the membership of 400.000 persons, the members’ contributions, as well as the requests for allowances and the monthly payment of allowances to some 9.000 members. About 50 employees work at the VZK office in Brussels.
IT is crucial to VZK’s business. The organization needs to be able to guarantee the secure management of confidential data about its members. At the same time it needs a high-performing environment to run applications for both VSB and VZK, to guarantee the timely payment of monthly allowances to the members, among other things. In 2011, a new physical server was implemented in an external datacenter, hosting VSB and VZK’s applications, including test, acceptance and production environments. Five years later, as the server reached the end of its life cycle and further capacity expansion wasn’t an option. That’s when Hestia advised to move to a virtual solution, as this would allow for a highly available and scalable set-up, using the existing licenses. The organization wanted a highly available and highly scalable environment, to assure its business continuity and to support its continuous business growth. As VZK was running Oracle Database Server Enterprise Edition on its physical server, Monin, the database division of Hestia, suggested to stay with Oracle and virtualize on its Oracle Virtual Machine (VM) platform, combined with an upgrade to Oracle Database 12c. This allowed VZK to keep using the licenses it had for the physical environment on Oracle VM, without any additional investment. The Oracle VM platform is hosted in Hestia’s data center, leaving the responsibility for the platform’s management to Hestia entirely.
All parties involved – VZK, Cronos for the applications, Hestia for the server and Hestia’s database division Monin for the database environment – worked closely together, preparing the project well in advance. Configuration and testing took place about a month before the actual migration, leaving nothing to chance. The time invested in preparing the project paid off. To be on the safe side, VZK planned the migration and upgrade over the course of an entire weekend. In reality, the actual migration took only a couple of hours – far less than expected. Following the migration, the users noticed a significantly shorter run time for batch processes. For VZK, the main benefit of the new environment is its scalability. Coping with growing data volumes won’t be an issue.
Flexible and available
VZK can now fully focus on developing its activities, along the lines of the ‘pay as you grow’ philosophy. The organization doesn’t have to deal with the burden of up-front hardware investment anymore. For VZK, Hestia acts as the organization’s external infrastructure partner, monitoring and maintaining the hardware environment. To guarantee the availability and continuity of the systems, VZK and Hestia entered into a Service Level Agreement, including terms for RTO and RPO. At the same time, the new set-up offers VZK a higher level of independence. Should the organization decide to move to a different technology environment, for example, it can do so at any time. In the traditional, physical server environment, the window for such a move is often attached to the hardware life cycle. In the virtual world, that restriction belongs to the past. This way, the new environment offers VZK the flexibility it needs to further improve its service to the organization’s members.
“Hestia acts as VZK’s external infrastructure partner, monitoring and maintaining the organization’s Oracle environment together with her database division Monin.”