Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 17, 2014

Improve the Health of Your Network with Optical LAN

Most healthcare organizations operate several discrete communications infrastructures, with each network dedicated to supporting a specific internal community, clinical systems, patients, physicians, medical technology, facility operations and smart buildings. Rarely does a single network connect with any other network, and even more rarely do all of them interconnect to form a single, cohesive infrastructure of converged services.

Current trends in how healthcare organizations use information communications technology (ICT) are straining the capabilities of traditional networking solutions, making them increasingly complex and expensive to operate. IT executives want an affordable, easy-to-manage alternative, one that combines all underlying IT systems into a simple, scalable and comprehensive infrastructure that can support the entire organization, as well as each internal user group.

The solution to meet these goals lies in healthcare facilities’ technology backbone, the local area network (LAN). Specifically, modern healthcare organizations have recently begun to shift to Optical LAN as their communications foundation. Using advanced fiber-optics technology, Optical LAN eliminates the costs and complexities of traditional copper-based, active-Ethernet LANs. With its support for greater than 101Tbps, Optical LAN also future-proofs the healthcare network, providing a single networking solution that is simple, secure, scalable, smart and stable.

Trends in Healthcare Services Create New IT Challenges

Healthcare organizations provide a diverse set of services to each of their internal communities. For example, patient-centric services include interactive entertainment and education technologies, while physician-centric services include real-time collaboration with colleagues and virtual telemedicine capabilities. Employee services include those related to personnel and patient security, along with staff and patient tracking/location capabilities, while facility-maintenance services include building-management systems and tools.

Collectively, these various services require the IT staff to configure different systems and networks to support each internal community's unique requirements. Among these are wired and wireless communications, computer technologies, high-speed/high-capacity networking and video conferencing systems. Each of these systems must transport and house information securely and reliably.

The growing reliance of healthcare services on IT systems creates more challenges for the IT staff, including the need for:

  • More and bigger technology rooms
  • More communications cabling and bigger cabling pathways
  • Greater power and cooling levels
  • More antennas
  • Larger IT staff
  • "Green" IT systems that consume less electricity and have lower heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) requirements than previous generations of technology

Optical LAN Anchors "the Digital Hospital"

Many leading healthcare organizations, like enterprises in other industries, are turning to Optical LAN to deliver services previously provided by their traditional, more costly networks - without having to swap out core and user devices. In addition to reducing capex and opex, Optical LANs help healthcare organizations:

  • Achieve their environmental "green" goals by reducing network power consumption and eliminating HVAC and generator load requirements
  • Eliminate the need for high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) tenting typically required for any new cabling
  • Reduce the number of telecommunications closets or eliminate them altogether, thereby recovering physical space which healthcare organizations can convert into revenue-generating space, such as extra hospital beds

Optical LAN Streamlines and Simplifies the Network

Replacing the campus aggregation switches deployed in traditional active-Ethernet LAN architecture with an Optical Line Terminal (OLT), Optical LAN also eliminates building-aggregation switches with a redundant 2x32 optical splitter. Because the splitter is a passive device, it has no power requirements. Optical Network Terminals (ONTs) then enable users to connect to the Optical LAN via legacy copper patch cords.

While active-Ethernet LAN technology typically requires IT staff to run 12-24 Category-6a (CAT 6a) cables to various logical rooms, Optical LAN technology requires only a few strands of small, simple to work with single-mode fiber. By significantly reducing the number of cable runs and replacing heavy, expensive copper with lighter, more cost-effective fiber, Optical LAN simplifies the network and boosts its capacity.

Delivering "5 S" Benefits to Healthcare Organizations

Compared with traditional copper-based LANs, the Optical LAN architecture offers healthcare organizations five major categories of benefits.

Simplicity - By converging all systems, from patient entertainment to critical-care monitoring to building management, onto a single infrastructure and hardware platform, Optical LAN greatly reduces the number of network elements to be managed.

Security - Layers 2-4 filtering, Network Access Control, and implementation of the Advanced Encryption

Standard (AES) enable Optical LAN to provide stronger security mechanisms than copper-based LAN. Its dynamic provisioning techniques comply with all Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mechanisms for authentication and auditing.

Scalability – Optical LAN delivers 101Tbps capacity, extends coverage out to 30 kilometers without signal regeneration (vs. 100m for copper) and supports 100,000-plus end points on a single element management system.

Smart – Optical LAN reduces capex and opex, paves a migration path to the software-defined network (SDN) architecture and future-proofs the infrastructure.

Stability - The carrier-grade Optical LAN delivers ultra-high availability (six nines+).

Positioning Healthcare IT for Today and Tomorrow

Passive infrastructure (Layer 1) components historically have been an afterthought in supporting healthcare IT systems and their active components. Now Optical LAN, already deployed in many healthcare and hospital facilities in the United States and Canada, brings the passive infrastructure to the forefront, thereby creating an advanced digital environment that can support both current and future healthcare requirements.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
By TMCnet Special Guest
Michael Wilson, Solutions Sales Manager and Engineer, Tellabs ,

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