When you’re focused on helping other human beings, it’s easy to forget the world around you. That is why clinics, hospitals and medical organizations such as Groupe Jolimont require flexible and self-driving networks, managed by a small team. So let’s hear the story of the leading Walloon health group and its future-oriented network provided by Extreme and Prodata Systems!
When abbot Félicien Bataille and a handful of canonesses of Saint Augustin founded the Jolimont Hospital (originally known as Institut Notre-Dame de la Compassion) in 1881, they couldn’t possibly imagine what will the health service look like almost one and a half century later. Once a small infirmary for the sick, elderly and wounded coal miners of La Louvière, has mushroomed into the biggest health group in the entire Walloon Region of Belgium.
With more than 5.500 employees and physicians, Groupe Jolimont brings together a network of establishments active in Brabant Wallon and Hainaut provinces. The organization encompasses a wide range of institutions and activities, including 6 hospital sites with 1.311 accredited beds and more than half a million consultations on an annual basis, 7 rest and care homes with 653 accredited beds, as well as a number of other facilities.
The mission? Supporting the people of Wallonia throughout their entire life: from prenatal consultations and birth, early childhood with the pediatric service, nurseries and after-school centers, through specialist clinics, mental health centers and rehab clinics for adults, up to accommodation services for the elderly, whether in rest homes, rest and care homes, assisted living facilities or more recently for short stays.
If abbot Bataille and the canonesses of Saint Augustin were alive today, they would probably wonder: “how can we stay on top of things in such a vast organization?” And the answer, of course, would lie in the IT infrastructure.
Photo: Groupe Jolimont
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Today, all ICT is managed centrally from the site in Jolimont. At the basis is a new, fully redundant data center. Currently, two hospital sites are still working with their own infrastructure, but in the future, they will also join the data center in Jolimont. All the other sites from the group – 35 in total – are already connected to the network of Groupe Jolimont.
“For the renewal of the network, we have switched to Extreme Networks’ Extreme Fabric Connect”, explains Paul Tassin, responsible for the ICT infrastructure at Groupe Jolimont. “Thanks to the fabric, we can manage the network with a small team.”
The concept of Extreme Fabric Connect consists in simplifying the management of the network as much as possible. “It allows us, among other things, to very easily stretch the VLAN from one site to another or to manage the routing - ‘point-to-point’ - on the network itself. In the previous network configuration, we always had to rely on an external partner for that type of interventions.”
Once the fabric at Groupe Jolimont was rolled out and the core switches in the data center were replaced, the attention shifted to the WLAN. Subsequently, Extreme Networks supplied all Wi-Fi antennas and controllers. “We have started the roll-out in the hospitals and are now systematically expanding the process in the rest homes”, says Paul Tassin. “The use of Wi-Fi is becoming more and more important, also for telephony, among other things.”
Paul Tassin, Groupe Jolimont
In the context of the network renewal, the use of Extreme Networks XMC (Extreme Management Center) has been essential. “This solution allowed us to considerably simplify the management of the network. The XMC management platform’s functional reach is very wide. It also includes the management of the switches.”
Moreover, the solution intends to allow as much automation as possible. “XMC manages the entire auto-configuration of the users and their devices on the network, both wired and via Wi-Fi. This way, we have a self-driving network.” This integration has also been enabled by Prodata Systems, the partner of Extreme Networks which supervised the implementation at Groupe Jolimont.
Currently, Groupe Jolimont has about 1.500 WLAN access points on the network, automatically spread over the various switches. “Meanwhile, this solution also allowed us to connect the hospital in Mons to the XMC platform, although that site is still functioning on a different network platform.”
The biggest advantage for the infrastructure team of Groupe Jolimont lies in integration and automation (and in the time savings they imply). “When the hospital admits a patient for an intervention, for instance, the system records how many days this patient will stay at the hospital. By means of integration, XMC automatically knows on which days the patient should be able to access the Wi-Fi network. This doesn’t imply any manual configuration anymore.”
It is at least as important that the network can be accessed safely, both wired and via Wi-Fi. In order to organize this secure network access, Groupe Jolimont uses Extreme Network Access Control (NAC). This solution allows to guarantee a smooth and secure access to the network, with limited resources.
Photo: Groupe Jolimont
Always there for you
At the end of the day, the most important criterion by means of which a clinic or a hospital evaluates its network, is its availability. It’s a very simple fact. When an application in a hospital doesn’t work, this has a direct impact. In fact, a failing network can make the difference between life or death.
All the time savings achieved with Extreme allow the Group Jolimont’s ICT team to fully focus on its core task. “The users – doctors, nursing staff, patients – have no eye for the network itself”, says Paul Tassin. “The users want perfectly functioning applications. In this context, availability is the only criterion. Therefore, the network must be fully redundant, but also performant, robust and secure. Moreover, we want to offer the same high service level on every site. The fact that we succeed in this - and that we manage our extended environment with a small team – is the biggest advantage Extreme Networks is offering us.”
Within the framework of scaling-up health care, three new hospitals will emerge in La Louvière, Mons and Nivelles in the next few years. “Of course, this will also have a major impact on our network. But with the combination of Extreme Networks and Prodata Systems, we already have a future-proof solution”, Paul Tassin concludes.
Photo: Groupe Jolimont
The story in a nutshell
Environment: 35 sites
- Fully redundant network and data center
- High availability for a business-critical environment
- Self-driving: efficient management by a small team