NSW Ambulance Service seeks data centre cure

New architecture to improve uptime

The Ambulance Service of New South Wales will procure new data centre facilities and services for the co-location of disaster recovery equipment for its mission-critical computer aided dispatch (CAD) platform.

The Service is undertaking the CAD Infrastructure Upgrade Project (CADIUP) to establish a single, up-to-date instance of the CAD software, related geographic information system (GIS) data and IT infrastructure, which will support the entire state-wide operations associated with emergency and routine patient transport, call-taking and dispatch functions.

A tender for the project was released last week outlining the requirements for the project, which centres on the establishment of two "highly secure" data centres located outside of the operations centres - one for normal operations and the other for business continuity and disaster recovery.

CADIUP will involve the procurement of new "fault-tolerant" computers for critical applications, installation of the latest version (4.3) of VisiCAD and GIS, and street data, establishment of redundant high-speed data links between the new data centres and each of the four operations centres, and integrating the electronic booking system (EBS) and other CAD-related applications.

The service will also implement a "totally flexible workstation", whereby all workstations at any operations centre can be used for call taking or dispatching, and any workstation can take calls or dispatch ambulances for any operations centre in the state.

The tender document stipulates the offered data centre facilities "must be located within NSW".

"Preference will be given to facilities located outside of the Sydney CBD and within the Sydney metropolitan area," according to the tender.

Ambulance operations centres receive inbound 000 emergency calls from the Telstra 000 call centres, emergency calls from Police, Fire and other operations centres.

The core operational systems and services used by the service for call taking and dispatching are VisiCAD version 1.10 for the primary ambulance dispatch system to identify incident locations, and real-time visual tracking of vehicles; a Genesys and Alcatel computer telephony integration; CDAT to receive the matching Telstra Eclipse Data associated with 000 emergency calls received through the Telstra network; the Inter-CAD Electronic Messaging System (ICEMS) to allow agency CAD systems to send and receive CAD jobs; an in-house, Web-based electronic booking system to schedule non-urgent patient transport; a the mobile data interface by which data is sent and received between the operations centre CAD system and ambulance mobile data terminals via several data radio networks.

The ICEMS protocol has been developed and tested by the NSW Fire Brigades and Ambulance Service and will be deployed between those and NSW Police with the next twelve months.

Other systems that integrate into the CAD system include: paging and SMS, priority dispatch software, a custom Windows DLL for clinical decision support, a call taking quality assurance application and the Higher Ground voice recording application.

The service operates a centralized data warehouse which is continuously updated with all VisiCAD and related data from each of the operations centres for backup, DR and reporting purposes. Live operational data is replicated in real time to a central data store at Rozelle in Sydney. Replication covers all CAD SQL data and most of the other data sources.

In addition to the CAD data warehouse, the tender requests Genesys data marts from each centre to be deposited into a central data mart.

The DR equipment is expected to be a mirror of the primary CAD data centre, including three fully-populated blade enclosures; however, if blades are not used then the equivalent would be about 50 HP rack-mounted servers. There are also six stratus fault tolerant servers. For storage an EMC SAN with between 30 to 40 disks is used.

The service expects the new data centre facility and services to provide a minimum of 99.982 percent uptime up to 99.995 percent availability.

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