Rush University Medical Center is scrapping its 20 legacy IT systems in favor of software from Epic Systems Corporation, and as part of the transition, the Chicago-based center will deploy infrastructure from Sun Microsystems.
Sun announced the deal on Nov. 28 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, along with a similar deal with the Detroit-based Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.
Already well-known for its image-storing offerings in radiology, the technology company hopes to position itself along with IBM and Hewlett-Packard as a major provider of other hospital IT infrastructure.
Rush Medical chose to deploy the complete Sun system: the Solaris 10 Operating System, UltraSPARC IV processor-based Sun Fire servers and Sun StorageTek solutions.
Rush Medical was already using Sun products for its Unix infrastructure, said Michael Sorensen, senior director of IT, who chose Sun infrastructure after investigating other vendors.
Another factor, said Sorenson, was that Sun offers discounts to educational institutions, making the cost of its equipment somewhat less than its competitors.
Sorenson estimates the hospital is spending about $5.5 million on its back-end technology. To support Epic, Rush Medical is installing 200 servers with about 110TB of storage across its dozen or so buildings.
The medical center is also working with Cisco Systems to upgrade its wireless coverage.
However, only about a quarter of Epic customers use Sun as a platform, said Sorenson, a fact that made some executives at the medical center nervous.
They were persuaded, he said, because the IT team had both a lot of experience and a lot of confidence in the technology company.
"Its an example of a Sun customer that has decided to move forward with some of the new products," said Brent Bracelin, senior research analyst with Pacific Crest Securities.
Suns server business is starting to show growth after several years in disarray, he said. But much of the growth comes from Suns existing install base and Suns ability to penetrate new markets is still uncertain.
Sun has been diversifying its product line and giving customers more choices of the operating systems and processor architectures that can be used with its products. (Rush Medical will be running Windows on some of its servers.)
Sun is also moving further into health care. Last year, it acquired data integrator SeeBeyond, a data integrator with a variety of digital health applications.
Over 400 customers use Sun products to share information across disparate health IT systems.
Suns director of health care & life sciences division, Joerg Schwarz, said that Suns health care sales were in the range of half a billion a year and growing around 10 percent each year. About a fifth of these, he said, are "brand-new customers."