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Largest Illinois healthcare system uproots Cisco to build $40M private cloud

Advocate Health Care replaces Cisco Catalyst 6509 core with 10G Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch fabric

By , Network World
May 11, 2012 09:29 AM ET

Network World - LAS VEGAS -- A healthcare network in Illinois is investing $40 million in Alcatel-Lucent switches to consolidate data centers into a private cloud.

Advocate Health Care is the largest integrated healthcare system in Illinois, and the largest emergency and Level 1 trauma network in the state. It employs 37,000 people and has more than 250 sites of care, including 10 acute-care hospitals and two children's hospitals.

With all of those facilities, Advocate needed to consolidate, centralize and virtualize IT operations to reduce costs and power consumption, increase availability and uptime, make the network more flexible and speed application deployment, said Gary Horn, vice president of technical services and CTO in Advocate's Information Systems department.

Horn discussed the project at the Interop 2012 conference here this week.

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"We're consolidating data centers to drive costs down, but it creates network challenges" such as increasing bandwidth, storage and CPU cycle needs, and the requirement for more flexible network services, Horn says.

So Advocate is replacing its Cisco Catalyst 6509 Gigabit Ethernet core with a 10G, and eventually a 40G and possibly 100G Ethernet core, made up of Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch 10000s. Top-of-rack devices will be Alcatel-Lucent 6900s and the edge will be comprised of 2,500 Alcatel-Lucent 6850E switches.

The $40 million investment is spread over five years, and also includes Alcatel-Lucent wireless LAN gear, which the company sources from Aruba Networks.

Advocate also evaluated Cisco's Nexus switches, and gear from HP, Brocade and Juniper before deciding to go with Alcatel-Lucent. Alcatel-Lucent was already an incumbent voice vendor to Advocate for more than 10 years.

"VoIP was a big factor in the decision," Horn says, adding that the hospital network is getting ready to deploy Alcatel-Lucent's OpenTouch IP Telephony system as well.

Data centers are located in Chicago, Park Ridge and Oak Brook, IL. Each will have two OmniSwitch 10000s in the core.

Advocate is adopting Alcatel-Lucent's pod and mesh architecture for its network. Pods are 10G meshes of 6900 switches with 2 microsecond latency. Four such pods could connect to two OmniSwitch 10000s in the enterprise core over 40G Ethernet links to configure a mesh supporting 14,000 server ports and 169Tbps switching capacity across 10 48-unit racks with a latency of 5 microseconds, Alcatel-Lucent says.

The mesh will also support the IEEE's Data Center Bridging, Shortest Path Bridging and Ethernet Virtual Bridging specifications for a lossless Ethernet fabric. Shortest Path Bridging will replace Spanning Tree in the Ethernet fabric.

Advocate is also adopting Alcatel-Lucent's virtual network profile (VNP) capability for an application aware network and the ability to manage applications as services with automatic performance tuning.

VNP allows the switches to enforce defined application profiles to prioritize, establish quality-of-service, attach security parameters and provision appropriate bandwidth and capacity for specific applications.

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