The History of LARG*net (Excerpt from insite Consultant s Report, May 2007)

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1 The First Years: ONIP The History of LARG*net (Excerpt from insite Consultant s Report, May 2007) LARG*net started in 1993 as a technology project funded under the Ontario provincial government ONIP program to be the London And Region Global network. ONIP was the Ontario Network Infrastructure Program - a $100 million dollar program funded over four years with jobsontario capital. ONIP was designed to support the development of user-driven telecommunications-based networks in the province. The original partners in LARG*net were: The University of Western Ontario Fanshawe College St. Joseph s Health Care 1 London Health Sciences Centre London Regional Cancer Centre The John P. Robarts Research Institute The intent of the project was two-fold: 1. to build a state-of-the-art high speed metropolitan data communications network; and 2. to develop applications that would leverage the high speed data network. The provisioned network was an ATM-based infrastructure, provided by Bell Canada. The infrastructure interconnected all of the founding partner organizations. Application research covered several areas, including nuclear medicine imaging, on-line course content for education, and videoconferencing. Also, LARG*net partnered with ONET to provide Internet and CANARIE research network connectivity to the project members. The resourcing for the LARG*net project included: Pre-ONIP (preparation of the grant proposal): Project Manager, Tom Willis - wrote the ONIP funding grant Administrative Officer, Cindy Munro - assisted part-time ONIP Project ( ) Full-time contract employees: General Manager, Trevor Cradduck Project Coordinator, Bob Rogan Administrative Assistant, Jennifer Patterson (with guidance and appropriate hand-off from Cindy) Medical Imaging Coordinator, Mike Jewison Telemedicine Coordinator, Dev Sainani 1 SJHC and LHSC organizations were separate entities at the time of the ONIP project, but in the late 1990 s agreed through restructuring to integrate operations but maintain separate corporate identities.)

2 Multi-Media Coordinator, Allan Zander plus a couple of coop students to work on web design, documentation and back end activity In addition to the above who were paid from the ONIP grant, several individuals (dozen +) from within the hospitals/partners worked on an "in-kind" basis to contribute to the project (this provided the institutional matching component for the ONIP grant). CANARIE, ONET and CA*net ONET was a research and education network that linked Ontario's universities, colleges and major private sector research institutes. ONET was established in 1988 and by mid 1990 s had 78 members. It linked researchers in Ontario universities, colleges, centres of excellence, provincial and federal government facilities and industrial research centres, and enabled Ontario researchers to connect with colleagues elsewhere in Canada and around the world. In spring of 1990, ONET joined with nine other regional networks to form a national backbone network, CA*net. CANARIE ( CAnadian Network for the Advancement of Research, Industry, and Education") is a Canada-wide project that was under development for about four years, mostly through conversations over CA*net. With the investment from ONIP, ONET "was to be a strategic part of the proposed CANARIE initiative. CANARIE s purpose was to: stimulate the creation, by the year 2000, of an electronic communications capability for all Canadians that is "second to none in the world". The new experimental CA*net network would be in operation by 1995, and Canada-wide networks would have "gigabit capabilities" by the end of Page 2 of 13

3 2.1.1 LARG*net ONIP Goals and Results 2 The overall project was divided very broadly into four identifiable sub-projects: Connectivity Medical Imaging Multimedia Regionalization Connectivity Results The connectivity team was primarily responsible for ensuring that the LARG*net partners were able to communicate with each other over the ATM metropolitan area network provided by Bell Advanced Communications. This required agreements involving domain names and transmission protocols and research and implementation of different solutions when protocols other than IP were to be transmitted. The greatest activity and involvement of the connectivity team personnel was in the early phases when video transmissions were initially conducted. It was hoped that Bell Advanced Communications (BAC), who managed the network, would have used this opportunity to implement network traffic monitoring and quality of service protocols. However, such data was never made available and it remained unknown whether the data was regarded as proprietary or had never been available even within the company. LARG*net had been unable to test the viability of ATM to the desk-top, which would have been especially valuable for the medical imaging project and might have proven useful in providing improved connectivity to the medical imaging archive. The connectivity team regarded the greatest benefit of LARG*net was its ability to draw the representatives from the various organizations to the same table. The level of communication that was required to oversee the installation of the metropolitan area network had not previously taken place. The major request made by the connectivity team when the policy committee met for the last time under the 1996 management, was that this level of communication and mutual collaboration should not cease and that it be allowed to continue to function as a cohesive team within the new management structure. Medical Imaging Results LARG*net became known as a network for the movement of medical images within the city more than for its other services. A number of factors supported that perception: 2 Comments summarized from LARG*net 3 Year Synopsis of ONIP: Executive Summary Jan 1997 Page 3 of 13

4 The initial application to ONIP cited the transmission of medical images as an activity requiring the broad band capabilities of an ATM network; A large proportion of ONIP, and especially matching funds, was spent in the area of medical imaging; There is a very strong cadre of research personnel engaged in medical imaging in London; and The general manager came from a background of medical physics in nuclear medicine. The medical imaging activities were heavily supported by contributions from 3M Canada and SUN Microsystems. 3M Canada had their head office in London and at the time regarded LARG*net as a good opportunity to beta test a suite of their image storage, management, processing, and viewing systems. The products that 3M offered were actually developed and manufactured by Cemax. During the course of the project several business changes took place within Cemax, including Cemax acquiring Icon. This rapid growth of Cemax-Icon and their involvement in a number of product development activities led to a reduced level of support by Cemax-Icon for the medical imaging project, and consequently a number of identified "bugs" on the beta test site were never connected. The involvement and support of the participating institutions decreased over the course of the project. The medical imaging project also experienced difficulties over the latter half of the project. In September 1996, LARG*net engaged the services of some external reviewers to assess the status of the medical imaging project and make recommendations concerning its future under the aegis of the medical imaging departments of the two London teaching hospitals. The report from this site visit recognized the significant results that had been achieved over the span of the project and commended the medical imaging team for their efforts. The report observed that LARG*net would have been wiser not to engage in exclusive partnership contracts such as those with 3M and SUN Microsystems. The exclusive nature of the contractual agreement left LARG*net with little room to maneuver when difficulties with Cemax-Icon were encountered, and meant that LARG*net lost control over the outcomes of the Medical Imaging project. However, these partnerships were required at the time of application for ONIP funds. In summary, the medical imaging team achieved much of what they set out to do at the start of the ONIP project. The implementation of the full vision of a city-wide picture archiving and communication system (PACS) remained a goal for the future. To move forward, the medical imaging team was urged to focus attention on one or two specific projects that would provide satisfaction to a defined group of users. One such project included the on-call system that was instituted in the Fall of 1996, and the installation of equipment that served the needs of the orthopedic surgeons. Two subsequent success stories emerged. The radiotherapy treatment planning staff at the London Regional Cancer Centre was able to retrieve CT scans directly into their treatment planning computer, and the on-call radiologist residents were able to review scans more quickly without having to make the trip across the city. Page 4 of 13

5 One other significant result was that LARG*net assisted in the development of compression algorithms by a faculty member of the University's Computer Science Department. Dr. X. Wu and a group of his graduate students had been working on an algorithm for lossless compression of images known as CALIC. This compression algorithm has won several competitions run by the International Standards Organization (ISO) in which the algorithm was in competition with companies such as Kodak, Ricoh, Canon, Hewlett Packard, and other major companies in the computer and imaging business. There was every expectation that Dr. Wu's algorithm would be adopted as an international standard for lossless compression. Multimedia Results Although the term multimedia encompassed a wide range of possible activities, LARG*net concentrated on distance education. The field was changing so rapidly that it became evident that LARG*net would be wise to remain flexible and to assist in activities of member organizations rather than endeavor to develop a multimedia project of its own. This was done by allocating funds to assist various sub-projects at The University of Western Ontario, Fanshawe College, and London Health Sciences Centre. Most of these sub-projects fell under the umbrella of "LAMP" (LARG*net Assisted Multimedia Projects), and took the form of telemedicine, distance learning, content building and computer conferencing activities. All were remarkably successful and the assistance provided by LARG*net funds allowed these projects to achieve more than could have otherwise been the case. The leverage of funds was such that about $100,000 dollars of LARG*net monies was used to augment close to $1,000,000 of funds from other sources - a ratio of 1:10. Another major expenditure by LARG*net was the partial funding of video conferencing facilities at London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph's Health Centre, and Fanshawe College. In the case of the hospitals, this equipment was used to reduce their travel costs using ISDN outside the city and engage in medical teaching activities using ATM within the city. Fanshawe College used the facility to learn about video conferencing as a tool for distance education and have built a network linking their multiple campuses based on the foundation of the knowledge gained. This has been a major contribution to the regionalization or outreach activities of LARG*net. LARG*net also developed its own site on the World Wide Web (http://www.largnet.uwo.ca) which has been used by the various members of LARG*net to "publish" their work. Initial content included the Medical i-way which is a set of radiology and nuclear medicine teaching files which drew close to 50% of all the "hits" experienced by the LARG*net server. The nuclear medicine protocols that were posted on the site were featured on the front page of the web site of the Thailand Society of Nuclear Medicine. In addition the same web server had been used by one of the LAMP projects - SHINE - and a book providing support to transplant patients also appeared During the latter part of 1996 LARG*net, in cooperation with the Network of Ontario Distance Educators (NODE) established a computer conferencing site on the web server using the Caucus software package from ScreenPorch Inc. This computer conferencing site proved to be extremely popular and was being used for a number of the on-line courses at The University of Western Ontario as well as in support of classroom courses. A virtual conference was set up to augment Page 5 of 13

6 MEDNET'96, the European Congress of the Internet in Medicine held in the UK in October, This served to demonstrate the power of computer conferencing to supplement the discussions that took place at the meeting itself and allowed non-attendees to participate in the meeting. Regionalization Results One objective of LARG*net was to expand its membership to organizations outside of the original eight organizations that constituted the initial consortium (six plus Bell and 3M/Sun). The objective was set for the third year of the project but, although efforts were begun early in the project, this objective was not achieved. Any connection to points outside of London needed to be done within the context of a specific application. Such applications were perceived by the members of LARG*net to be within their own strategic mandate, not that of LARG*net. Thus, if the application was one of telemedicine, the hospitals saw themselves as the prime supplier of such services, and if the application was distance education, then the University and Fanshawe College regarded this to be their responsibility. Despite this division of responsibility, LARG*net had been able to facilitate the development of some regionalization activities. The implementation of the Fanshawe College video network was based on the experience gained by LARG*net. In addition, LARG*net was a partner in the establishment of NODE, the Network of Ontario Distance Educators, which was located at the University and in this context, shared in the purchase of computer conferencing software and the support of that computer conferencing software on the web server. In the area of health care, the Ford Motor Company at Talbotville approached LARG*net to assist in the establishment of a link to LHSC for the transmission of EKGs and expressed a desire to access the medical images stored on the central image archive. LARG*net was able to facilitate a meeting with the appropriate personnel at the London Health Sciences Centre to assist this project. LARG*net s presence within the City of London grew slowly, and invitations were prepared for early 1997 to four potential members who expressed keen interest in joining LARG*net. 1.1 A Need for Change ONIP Funding Ends LARG*net had attracted not only provincial, but also national and even international, attention. The ONIP project had also brought together people from across the city who shared a common vision and who used this opportunity to assist their organizations to grow and develop expertise in the telecommunications infrastructure of the information age. When the original funding ended, these organizations believed there was still value to be gained by continuing to work together. Page 6 of 13

7 After much discussion amongst the partner organizations, it was decided that the greatest value of the project was the network connectivity, and network connectivity services presented the most potential for a self-sustaining business model. Thus, application development by LARG*net was dropped, leaving the development of applications within the sphere of interest of member organizations. Medical imaging would continue to be developed within the hospital management and budget structure. Similarly, distance education applications would be developed by Fanshawe College and the University using the experience and knowledge gained from the trials conducted by LARG*net. The new philosophy of LARG *net was to concentrate on providing the technological infrastructure that would allow the members to take advantage of broadband communications. New funding for LARG*net was provided from the original LARG*net partners to support the continuation of network connectivity services. Contracts were established in the beginning of 1997 to create a much smaller and focused operation for LARG*net: Mike Bauer, Executive Director (part-time) (Associate Vice-President of ITS, UWO) Cindy Munro, Admin Officer (part-time) (UWO employee) Frank Sergent, Network Specialist : Incorporation In January 1998, the current LARG*net was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, governed by a Board of Directors, and operated as a communications collective, serving primarily broader public sector organizations in London and region. An administrative services agreement was arranged with UWO, giving LARG*net a home and strong administrative support for the fledgling organization. Membership categories were defined. "Sponsoring Members" would be those members prepared to invest a larger membership fee and assume the financial risk in LARG*net. This category of membership would include the four organizations where the ATM switches were located. The remaining members would become "Participating or Regular Members" at a reduced membership fee and with lower risk attached. In addition, Regular Members would have up to two representatives at the board whereas Sponsoring Members would be individually represented. The membership of LARG*net was projected to expand and the new members would have an opportunity to join at either level of participation. The Board would also have up to four "Community" representatives based on expertise and interest. The Sponsoring Members at the time of incorporation included: The University of Western Ontario Fanshawe College St. Joseph s Health Care 3 London Health Sciences Centre 3 SJHC and LHSC organizations were separate entities at the time of incorporation, but in the late 1990 s agreed through restructuring to integrate operations but maintain separate corporate identities.) Page 7 of 13

8 LARG*net now had funding based on membership fees and direction from the Board to focus on the technical infrastructure for high speed connectivity between members and also connectivity to other entities including the internet. The original membership fees were lump sums provided by each institution to cover the expenses of LARG*net operation which primarily included staffing costs, infrastructure/equipment costs and the costs of purchased services from various telecommunications providers. The amounts that each member contributed to LARG*net was estimated on the size of the institution, an assumption on the value each received and sometimes on the ability to pay. When LARG*net was incorporated in 1998 the Executive Director and Administrative officer remained but the one staff member had resigned and there were two contract staff working within LARG*net. John Lawson, Network Specialist Gary Higgs, Community Network Facilitator This staff complement remained until 2001 when Debbie Jones became the Director of Information Technology Services at Western and assumed the role of Executive Director of LARG*net. From 2001 to 2003 there were several forces at work that contributed to change in LARG*net. ORION was beginning to visit the research institutions to gain support for the development of a new Ontario Research network that would offer very high speed connectivity and replace the service provided by ONET. It would also, however, be introducing a much different and much more costly fee to the research members. Another pressing issue was the need to refresh the LARG*net infrastructure and there were no funds available resulting in a need to approach the members and discuss possible increases in fees. Strategic planning meetings were held with the Board to discuss the future of LARG*net. There was also staff turnover with Gary Higgs leaving in 2003 and a need to rethink the staff complement. In 2003 provisions were made to have full time employees of LARG*net with benefits, and two full time positions were filled. John Lawson became the Operations Manager and Scott Duggan as Network Specialist. There were also contract staff and co-op students hired as needed over the years after that to complement the staff and manage growing demand for services. Rather than a single outward-facing role and a technical back room role, the various duties and roles would be shared between all staff. Another change was the slow evolution of the charging model to a much more rigorous fee-forservice model. A fee structure was developed for current services and all new services that could more easily show members the value they were getting and also allow some members to customize the services they wished to purchase. In August 2004, when most fees had been adjusted, a final plan was taken to the Board for approval and the last few members had fee adjustments to bring them in line with the new model. This now allowed new services to be easily introduced for specific members and only those members bore the cost. Pricing for the service was equal to the added cost in manpower and service to LARG*net to remain a Not for Profit and to give the best value to members. Page 8 of 13

9 1.2 Growing and Serving Over the years, the members using the LARG*net network progressed from using it for or Internet to mainstream transfer of patient or student information, digital images and other critical items necessary to their day to day operation. This increased their reliance on LARG*net being highly available and resilient as well as requiring fast access to the team for support and utilization monitoring. Changes were made to the infrastructure to implement redundancy and manage points of failure. When ORION came on the scene, the Board designated LARG*net as the focal point to coordinate access to the ORION network on behalf of its members. This collaboration between members to establish a single relationship also accomplished a 20% discount in ORION fees. Over the years LARG*net has also expanded its role in response to the needs or opportunities of its members, providing consulting, expertise and project management as required Growth in response to Sponsoring Member LHSC & SJHC a) Thames Valley Hospital Planning Partnership in 2000, based on discussions around connectivity and planned needs for a secure network, LARG*Net designed and proposed a secure, high-speed data network for six community hospitals in the Thames Valley Hospital planning partnership region. The activation of the original network was the basis for service sharing and cost-savings for several hospitals in the group. Acting as an impartial intermediary, LARG*net facilitated cooperation and collaboration between these community hospitals. This original secure WAN became the base topology upon which the infrastructure for the regional C3 initiative was built. Again, LARG*net was instrumental in bringing the community hospitals IT staff together with the London Hospitals IT staff as part of the project. b) VideoCare LARG*net s pre-existing knowledge of, and relationships with, education and healthcare entities in the London region, combined with LARG*net s strong technical and networking expertise, was leveraged by the VideoCare telemedicine initiative to have a turn-key technical staff from day one. VideoCare did not have to build its own IT group immediately. Instead it contracted LARG*Net to manage IT services for the initiative. This enabled the VideoCare initiative to ramp up quickly and service not only hospitals, but also healthcare-related education facilities such as the Schulich School of Medicine at UWO. This initiative began as a CHIPP grant with SWOT-N (Southwestern Ontario Telemedicine network) in and carried on when the project received sustained operational funding from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care in 2004 and transitioned to become VideoCare until c) Ontario Telemedicine Network The MOHLTC decided in 2006 to merge the three telemedicine projects (including VideoCare) into one provincial network and LARG*net played a key role assisting in the planning for the integration. The merger led to the move of equipment to OTN s data centre location at SSHA ending the relationship with VideoCare Page 9 of 13

10 Mar , while beginning a new relationship with OTN for continued consulting and technical services Growth in response to Sponsoring Member UWO a) Harmonization of IP and IPX addressing as part of the development of the original LARG*Net network in the early 1990 s, it was required that partner organizations develop a common network addressing scheme so as to permit inter-institutional communications. The development of this common addressing structure became the basis for inter-institutional services, an example of which was the sharing of Novell Netware services between the UWO medical school and the London Hospitals. b) The planned expansion of the Schulich school of Medicine and Dentistry from the UWO campus to the University of Windsor involved expertise from several organizations, including ORION, OTN (VideoCare), UWO ITS, U-Windsor IT staff, WEDNet, and IT staff at the London and Windsor Hospitals. LARG*Net was the Schulich School s first stop in trying to sort out how to establish connectivity for the service. LARG*net s cross-sector experience and relationships helped pulled together the parties needed to make this initiative successful. c) LARG*net was approached by the UWO to connect the buildings of the Research Park. Once the Stiller Centre was connected, this led to offerings of service to the organizations who were tenants of the facility who signed agreements along with their rental contracts. (TechAlliance, Critical Outcome Technologies Inc. and Viron Therapeutics Inc.). With the Mogenson building already connected, VideoCare had an easy decision when it needed more space. It moved from the premises at Westminster College to the Mogenson Building in Growth in response to Sponsoring Member Fanshawe College a) Futurenet: LARG*Net collaborated with Fanshawe College in the development of their FutureNet project, which involved the establishment of high-speed connectivity to Fanshawe s regional campuses in St. Thomas and Woodstock, and the development of online education applications that leveraged the high-speed connectivity. Post-project, LARG*net assumed operation of the connectivity services on behalf of Fanshawe College. LARG*Net established partnerships with other entities in Woodstock and St. Thomas, thus facilitating the sharing of the connectivity service into these cities, and resulting in a decrease in the cost of connectivity for both Fanshawe and the other partner organizations. Page 10 of 13

11 2.3.4 Growth through Innovation a) Sharing of Fibre Services several organizations in the immediate area of the UWO campus own fibre optic cable infrastructure. LARG*Net has been instrumental in bringing together the various organizations to construct an extensive, cost effective network that leverages partnership use of this fibre infrastructure. This infrastructure interconnects UWO, Robarts Research Institute, NRC s IMTI facility, University Hospital, The Stiller Centre, and the Mogensen building in the Research Park. b) Internet Bandwidth cost through the annual Internet RFP process, LARG*Net has been very successful in bringing low cost, high quality Internet service to the London region. Permeg costs to LARG*Net have dropped from a high of $ in 1998 to the current rate of less than $ While general industry market pressures have also contributed to this steep decline in cost, LARG*net s ability to aggregate a large demand for Internet service has brought big-city price breaks to the region. By 2008 LARG*net had become a self-supporting, not for profit organization whose purpose is to provide excellent service and value to its members. Over the last few years, with the guidance of the Board of Direactors, LARG*net has continued to evolve and provide many added value services to the members and is much more than an inexpensive alternative to broadband and internet access. Page 11 of 13

12 Year in Review From the following projects were undertaken by Larg*net: Data Center Move On Sunday Oct 26 th Larg*net moved ½ of it s Core and Medical Core equipment to the new Datacenter in the Support Services Building, at UWO. This move involved the coordination of multiple groups to ensure that mimial downtime was involved on moveday. Overall most customers were back online in under 4 hours. Fanshawe Resillency Project Working with Fanshawe College, Larg*net coordinated the installation of a wireless point-to-point link, for redundancy purposes. The link is a 100Mb connection that will be used as a backup in case of failure of their main link. Currently Larg*net and Fanshawe are coordinating the final stages of this project. Galleria Point of Presence (PoP) In December 2008, Larg*net brought the Galleria PoP online, to serve our members in the Galleria (now Citibank) mall. The goal with the Galleria was to consolidate the satellite services for several members while providing them greater bandwidth at a reduced cost. The Galleria connection is a shared 1000Mb connection. Currently connected to the PoP are City Of London, London Public Library, Fanshawe College, and the London Prostate Clinic. UWO continuing education will be joining soon. Larg*net Rebranding In August 2008, Largnet rebranded it s logo to a new look as part of the 10 th anniversary of it s incorporation. Vintage Logo New Logo With the rebranding Larg*net also refreshed the look of it s webiste. Page 12 of 13

13 Service Desk Application In May 2008, Largnet brought the AdventNet Service Desk application online to support and track the many inbound reqests that come into Largnet. This gives Largnet the ability to analyze and review the tickets and changes, as well as ensure a central point to collect, share and store communications. To date over 1600 requests have been logged. Medical Core Resilliceny The Medical Edge (known as Med Edge) previously had a single point of failure, as the separation from the Med Edge to the Largnet core was through a single device. In 2008 this was corrected and now the Medical Core has full redundancy to 2 separate datacenters on UWO s campus. In this fashion the Medical Network, which services many area hospitals, now will have a failover path in the event of a datacenter going offline. This new design was utilized in the Data Center Move project. Staffing In July 2008 Brad Gray was hired on as the new operations manager. He brought with him many years of IT Management, as well as a technical skillset. In June 2009, one of our Technial Analysts, Ryan Sharpe, left Largnet to persue other opportunities. Certifications Over the past year Largnet staff has pushed their technical boundries to certify themselves according to the Cisco Networking certifications. Most recently one of our staff members obtained the high certification of Cisco Certified Network Professional. Breakdown for staff certifications are as follows: CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) 1 CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) 2 It should be noted that by the end of 2009, it s anticipated that there will be one additional CCNP and one additional CCNA, to provide Largnet with 2 of each. Page 13 of 13

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