New Home for PBC


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.

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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:

A Structured Cabling System to service all 6 floors and designed to be fully functional for at least 15 years.
A new Local Area Network to support present and future client/server applications.
A 3700 square foot Computer Room with raised floor to accommodate 2 IBM mainframes, over 30 PC servers and associated peripheral equipment.
Redesign of Wide Area Network communications to take advantage of centralized operations and Internet services.
Relocation of all IT equipment from the two original facilities to the new location.
Restoration of IT services at the Burnaby location after the move.

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.

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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.

The Main Cross-connect for data communications is located within the Computer Room. This arrangement secures the data traffic, avoids the need for an Intermediate Cross-connect and positions the system for future migration of voice services to the LAN.
The Computer Room is implemented as a separate (seventh) "floor" from a structured cabling point of view. It is equipped with its own Horizontal Cross-connect system, a set of horizontal drops and a dedicated backbone connection to the PBX Room.
Every horizontal drop on the 6 "real" floors is equipped with the AMP Communications Outlet (ACO). This device enables every one of the 1600 drops to support two completely separate circuits or applications – effectively doubling the capacity of the system to 3200 circuits.


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 1100’s which in turn are individually connected to the CoreBuilder over a 100 Mbps full-duplex Fast Ethernet backbone.

Computer Room

The Computer Room at PBC is required to house the following equipment:

Two IBM mainframes
Over 300 Gbytes of DASD
Various cartridges, tape drives and printers
Over 30 PC servers with expansion potential
The main building cross-connect for data communications
IBM 3174 and 3745 communication controllers
A separate operators room with PC and 3270 terminals

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.

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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.


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