DDP Consulting Group was chosen by Pacific Blue Cross to be the prime consultants responsible for the design, implementation and commissioning of Information Technology services at their new 120,000 square-foot headquarters.
Pacific Blue Cross
Pacific Blue Cross (PBC) is the leading provider in British Columbia of extended medical and dental insurance plans. PBC came into being in November 1997 as a result of the merger of MSA Medical Services Association and CU&C Health Services Society. The new corporation provides health services to over 2 million members.
During the merger process it was decided that the new organization should also have a new home a custom designed, 120,000 square-foot facility constructed at the junction of Canada Way and Gilmore in Burnaby. A deadline for closure of the existing MSA office of June 30, 1998 ensured that a very aggressive time-scale be adopted.
The DDP Challenge
The challenge set to DDP was to define, design, procure, manage and commission the complete Information Technology (IT) infrastructure of the new building. The scope of the project included:
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the project was the last item. PBC provides an on-line prescription drug payment service that is available to all pharmacies within BC. Disruption to this service had to be minimized, resulting in a mainframe move window of 12 hours from 10 p.m. on Saturday night to 10 a.m. on Sunday morning.
Another major concern was the overall time-scale of the project. When DDP was called into the project in September 1997, construction of the building was already under way. No delays could be tolerated since the construction schedule was already highly optimized to meet the June 30, 1998 occupation date.
Structured Cabling System
To determine the key attributes of the planned Structured Cabling System (SCS) DDP performed a requirements capture and analysis process with input from PBC staff. DDP also surveyed a cross-section of recent installations to confirm the claims of manufacturers and installation contractors. The study identified that a move to client/server technology was likely to increase LAN traffic, but that support for legacy applications and hardware would still be required.
The solution adopted was a single-tenant architecture based on a fiber backbone with Enhanced Category 5 UTP horizontals.
The system design of the SCS includes a number of unique features that enhance the flexibility, capability and maintainability of the system.
Local Area Network
The requirements analysis process conducted for the Structured Cabling System also provided valuable input for the design of the Local Area Network. An additional factor was a desire to re-use recently purchased equipment installed at the CU&C building.
Although Layer-3/4 switches are gaining acceptance as backbone devices, it was determined that the extra complexity would provide little or no benefit in the clean, hierarchical and single location environment provided by the new building. Accordingly, a 3Com CoreBuilder 7000HD was chosen as the central switch with a combination of 3Com Desktop and SuperStack II switches provided in the LAN Rooms
The overall system provides 5.0 Gbps capacity. Most of the users are connected to 24-port SuperStack Switch 1100s which in turn are individually connected to the CoreBuilder over a 100 Mbps full-duplex Fast Ethernet backbone.
The Computer Room at PBC is required to house the following equipment:
Presented with a draft layout, DDP refined the plan to ensure that all of the existing and planned equipment could be accommodated and that all applicable performance standards would be met.
The first step in the design process was to create a complete inventory of the hardware. This database enabled the electrical power, heat dissipation and floor loading requirements to be determined and analysed.
Investigations were also conducted into the feasibility of providing standby generation and uninterruptible power supplies. As a result of these studies, the standby generator was increased in capacity from 50 kW to 300 kW and all servers and switches were provided with UPS. This precaution was exercised within two months of occupation when an outside plant fault interrupted service. The standby generator restored power within 14 seconds, and the UPS ensured that the server farm operated flawlessly.