WA health gets network surgery

The WA Health Department has pulled itself back from the brink of network overload with the installation of a million-dollar ATM network.

For the project, due to come online over the next six weeks, WA Health selected IBM's 8265 ATM switch technology to connect 13 hospitals and more than 10,000 users in Perth's metropolitan area. The project is said to be worth "in excess of $1 million".

According to officials, the new network -- which is integrated with the department's existing microwave and TDM (time division multiplexing) technology -- will support a minimum of 10Mbits/sec of dedicated bandwidth across selected desktops. This will improve performance, speed and transfer of data. The department will run applications over the network that include Oracle Financials, Management System, Human Resources and Rostering, Clinical Care, Clinical Costing, Pathology and an Engineering Works Management System, officials said.

Frank Gaglio, manager of infrastructure at WA Health, said: "The [ATM] solution will give us a major leap in performance by eliminating bottlenecks and assisting us in an objective to reduce response times by at least 50 per cent. For the end user it should be transparent whether they are accessing an application from a server on their LAN or over the WAN . . . the performance should be like running the application straight of the desktop."

According to Gaglio, the department realised it needed to upgrade its network after an evaluation revealed it was at "the edge" of bandwidth capacity.

"We looked at the capacity requirements for those applications and realised we had some problems," Gaglio said.

Officials said assessment of WA Health's network was "part of a corporate business re-engineering program", which included upgrading applications to solve millennium compliance problems, moving towards a centralised computing model, and finding a network to support what is believed to be the world's biggest single Oracle Financials implementation.

According to Gaglio, IBM's solution was selected for the project from a pool of nine vendors, including submissions from all leading data networking vendors.

"Our prime reason for choosing IBM was [it offered] value for money and their depth of experience in this area," Gaglio said. "We were comfortable that they were around for the long haul.

According to Gaglio, WA Health plans to extend the network in the future to cover all desktops and to support integrated voice, image and video applications for e-business.

It is expected the network will cater for growing demands in remote health services, transmission of patient data and imaging such as x-rays, and electronic transactions with suppliers.

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