Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), Intel, (NASDAQ: INTC), Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) and VMware (NYSE: VMW) have teamed up to open a dedicated facility for hospitals to test and deploy new healthcare software running on x86 servers using Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux.

The idea is to show small- to medium-sized hospitals and medical facilities that Epic Systems’ electronic health records (EHR) software running on x86 industry-standard servers with Linux can meet the needs of mission-critical healthcare solutions. Inasmuch as the healthcare industry has long been the poster child for proprietary software and hardware, highlighting the cost savings and interoperability advantages offered by an open source platform also is a key priority of the initiative.

Epic is the centerpiece of the new DRIVE (an acronym for the five players) Center of Excellence located near Epic’s headquarters in Verona, Wisc. At the facility, hospitals can test their applications and configurations for end user computing on a variety of server and storage options, conduct cross-functional testing of solutions such as help desk services and disaster recovery, and interact with all the primary third parties involved in a Linux deployment. Epic’s EHR software newly runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, having previously run on AIX and Unix servers.

With the joint venture, Epic’s software will run on Dell x86 servers, potentially offering a cost-effective option for hospitals. In addition to supplying industry-standard servers to the effort, Dell also brings a portfolio of professional services and support for EHR deployments with subject matter experts in tow. VMware will supply vSphere, an extensively installed virtualization platform in hospital infrastructures. Red Hat, meanwhile, will provide hospitals with 24x7 premium support services to support an EHR system.

“Through this alliance, we are poised to give customers, especially midsized hospitals, greater choice and flexibility for meeting meaningful use requirements,” said August Calhoun, Ph.D., Dell Healthcare and Life Sciences vice president and general manager.

VMware Healthcare chief technology officer Frank Nydam tagged the DRIVE center as transformative. “This partnership demonstrates how meaningful collaboration and technology can help transform the delivery of healthcare products and services,” he said.

The DRIVE team offered up an example of its work in St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, a 431-bed facility in Syracuse, N.Y., that enlisted the assistance of the vendors to implement Epic software on Linux. In a 16-month-long transition of the medical facility’s EHR system, the companies are simultaneously building a test and training environment and readying a full production system as well as providing training, planning and ongoing support.

“Using VMware and Red Hat Enterprise Linux to run Epic’s database on Dell’s x86 servers will not only significantly reduce hardware costs, but also will simplify our environment and allow our IT staff to focus on delivering the best user experience for our clinicians,” said Chris Snow, St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center IT systems engineering manager.