Being one of the three largest providers of diagnostic equipment worldwide, Philips Medical Systems has been converted to Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) networking by Origin, a Philips-subsidiary. Both the development and the manufacturing of expensive scanner and ultrasound systems require extensive tests, based on Information Technology (IT) and image archival techniques. The PMS head-office also hosts an international training centre. The pressing need for an innovative network infrastructure led up to the obvious choice for ATM, almost two years ago. The migration from the obsolete Ethernet to the newly installed ATM, equipped with virtual Local Area Networks (V-LANs) will be completed in February.
In March 1997, Origin started to make an inventory of the PMS requirements. These involved access to plenty of bandwidth capacity at an affordable cost; sufficient speed to integrate leading-edge applications; voice and video communication; quality of service at any given time; flexibility and scalability to face future growth; and a guaranteed availability of no less than 99,8 percent. In addition, every single part in the entire network had to be based on officially established industrial standards. As a result, Origin came up with a design which connected each user to the central switches via a separate port. For the type of network, the choice was limited to Ethernet, Fast Ethernet or ATM.
A tender procedure was initiated in December 1997 and out of four network specialists, Cabletron was selected because of its superior management tool "Spectrum". The ATM-solution is able to operate at a maximum speed of 622 megabit per second. There is also a growing tendency to work with "server farms" which are special places reserved to station large groups of servers. In this way, transmission delays are restricted to a minimum between ATM-users, since the conversion of protocol is no longer required. The heart of the new PMS network system consists of two Network Communication Centres (NCCs), lodged in separate buildings. Between both NCCs, 24 fibre cables have been routed apart from each other. Both centres have identical equipment, which enables them to immediately take over any task from one another, if necessary.
The ATM network infrastructure is built out of 182 Cabletron Smartswitches 6000, distributed over more than thirty locations and connected to both the NCC-1 and NCC-2 for reasons of redundancy. The NCC links can operate at a speed of 155 Mb with ATM whereas the interconnections with the different network servers function via Fast Ethernet at 100 Mb. In turn, all of the 3000 PCs, printers and other nodes are linked at speeds between 100 and 10 Mb. A redundant Smartswitch-router allows the 22 Internet Protocol (IP) sub-networks to be coupled without any transmission delay thanks to the hardware-routing. The connection between the various switches has become twenty times as fast as before.
The new PMS ATM-network offers the possibility for use of virtual Local Area Networks (V-LANs). This enables the network manager to provide different groups of users with exactly the same facilities, totally independent of the physical spot where they are actually working in the company. In this way, it is possible to install V-LANs for both accountants and product developers, for instance. Philips Medical Systems employs 2500 people but Origin is pretty sure that the implementation of the ATM-solution will fulfil all the existing needs for communication in the company's various departments. The Automatisering Gids has served as the information source for the news in this article.