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Downtime deterrent.

USC University Hospital avoids network traffic spikes and bottlenecks with client/server switching hubs and FDDI adapters.

My team and I manage an information care network at USC University Hospital in Los Angeles where it is critical to avoid downtime. The network operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Standards-based technology is important to us. We implemented a solution consisting of the Network Peripherals EIFO client/server switching hubs and EISA FDDI network adapters.

Our original network was designed almost four years ago to support approximately 40 terminals, two to three DEC VAX systems, and an IBM AS/400. Unexpectedly, the number of networked PCs grew from 35 to 100 in the first year! The network consisted of one big 10 Mb/s Ethernet segment shared by all these devices.

The network of minicomputers, PCs, and terminals supported a wide range of patient services, including patient tracking, electronic messaging for ancillary services, the billing system, and admitting, discharge, and transfer (ADT).

PC users launched Microsoft Windows and other applications from Novell servers on the network. The increased use of Windows and DOS applications by the various departments increased their need to run multiple applications at any given time.

With the entire PC user group relying on the central application servers, network traffic spikes were unavoidable during the day. Unfortunately, we don't have a big enough IS staff to support distributed servers at this time, so the centralized strategy is the best for us.


Our single-segment Ethernet backbone was a bottleneck to the fast-growing network of computers being used for daily hospital care and office automation. It became so bad that we limited our PC user community to 250 PCs, because our Ethernet backbone was on the verge of breaking.

We determined that a migration to a high-speed 100 Mb/s FDDI local area network (LAN) was necessary. This was a key strategy for USC University Hospital's Novell servers, which were now supporting higher network load and a much larger user base. A high-speed 100 Mb/s FDDI connection was just the right prescription to eliminate the server bottleneck.

Switched Ethernet was an ideal solution to eliminate client congestion problems and provide faster access to the servers on the high-speed FDDI LAN. We also wanted to be able to use fiber FDDI connections between floors so the switching hubs could be distributed in the various wiring closets. Finally, the solution had to fit the project budget, yet also provide capacity to sustain future growth.

We invited router and switch vendors to propose solutions that met these criteria. High-end chassis solutions provided many features but also came with a high price tag, which was not practical for a distributed workgroup switch infrastructure.

We also reviewed a low-end pure Ethernet switch solution. Unfortunately, to satisfy our high bandwidth server requirements, we needed a proprietary full duplex Ethernet solution.


The Network Peripherals EIFO solution proved to be the cure. The client/ server switching hub is a high-speed Ethernet-to-FDDI workgroup switching hub. It provides 12 shared or dedicated 10 Mb/s ports that are switched to high-speed FDDI.

USC University Hospital's network was reconfigured to use five EIFOs and one FDDI concentrator. In addition, seven Novell servers were upgraded with EISA FDDI adapters.

Hubs today are distributed on four floors encompassing administrative and medical records, lab and X-ray, psychology and rehabilitation, and general patient ward. The computer room hub was attached with the segments that included the IBM AS/400 and the DEC VAX systems.

We used the FDDI concentrator as the central connection point for the FDDI Novell servers. Key servers were given additional fault-tolerant support with the use of dual attach EISA adapters connected in a dual-homed configuration. These changes have eliminated the traffic spikes that slowed the network to a crawl and have significantly improved response time to users.

The increased bandwidth capacity provided by the switching hub allows for new distributed imaging equipment on patient floors and enables support for additional networked applications.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Technology Information; network configuration at USC University Hospital in Los Angeles
Author:Powers, Greg
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1997
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