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Handling move and merger: how Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Ohio reacted to major change.


When Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Ohio planned the renovation of its downtown Cleveland offices, computers kept getting in the way.

The data center and personnel who worked there required a lot of floor space.

The computers required special environmental considerations.

And the space needed for trunk lines between floors was considerable.

Moving the data center to a remote location while keeping the 1000 terminals at headquarters seemed the obvious answer.

But would a remote location cause a degradation in customer-response time?

Customer service is a top priority at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Ohio.

Response times could not be compromised because of the location of the data center.

Says Bill Bernesser, a Blue Cross/Blue Shield systems engineer who has been involved with network support since the planning stages of the data center relocation: "Network Systems Corp. had the only solution that would meet our three major requirements."

Those three requirements were as follows:

* Interactive response time from each customer-service terminal to the mainframe computer must be immediate.

* The network must have the ability to operate headquarters printers from the remote location.

* The network must be robust, maintaining system availability under all circumstances.

One Long Weekend

Over a long holiday weekend, the entire network was installed.

PC terminals were connected to control terminals at headquarters.

The controllers, in turn, were connected to remote device modules (RDMs) from Network Systems.

The four RDMs were connected to two Network Systems link adapters--one for interactive terminals, another for peripheral equipment such as printers.

The link adapters were attached to telephone lines that would carry data from headquarters to the new data center in Beachwood (suburb of Cleveland), 15 miles away.

There, all transactions went through channel extenders from Network Systems, and then to the IBM 3090 mainframe computer.

"When terminal operators returned to their desks after the long weekend, they were immediately up and running," says Bernesser.

"They couldn't tell the difference between having a mainframe on another floor in the same building and having a mainframe 15 miles away," he says.

Redundancy was built into the system.

If the phone lines to one link adapter are compromised, the entire system switches over to the other link adapter--with priority always given to the interactive customer-service terminals.

"You can always print out checks or reports at night or when the phone lines are repaired," says Bernesser.

"But you don't keep a customer waiting on the phone or waiting for a callback."

The connection between the Cleveland headquarters and the Beachwood data center proved the capabilities and reliability of a remote data center.

Now Toledo

That experience led to another networking challenge.

The Cleveland organization merged with another Blue Cross group in Toledo, 120 miles west.

Again, over a long weekend, a network was installed using the same configuration that had worked in Cleveland.

"When terminal operators started working after the new network was installed, they couldn't tell the difference," says Bernesser.

"Some of them probably still don't know that they're talking to a computer 120 miles away."

Cleveland and Toledo were both connected to the same IBM 3090 mainframe.

The computer is partitioned--half to serve the IMS applications from the 725 terminals in Toledo, and half to serve the CICS applications from the 1000 terminals in Cleveland.

To facilitate communications between Toledo and Cleveland, Network Systems installed a channel-to-channel adapter that communicates from the Toledo channel extenders to the Cleveland channel extenders and then into the 3090.

The partition may soon disappear in the 3090.

"We're getting more line-of-business directed and less location directed in the company as a whole," he says.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:wide area networks
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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