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April 2019
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Sussex Health Informatics Service


The Observer Suite from Network Instruments was implemented to provide visibility across the network.

The Challenge
Sussex HIS needed to upgrade its network to support a robust image archiving system and to replace the existing WAN with a newer, more resilient one.

The project started over 3 years ago, and Sussex estimates it will be completed two years from now at a total cost reaching £15m.

To justify investment Sussex HIS required complete visibility so it can troubleshoot future rollouts, as well as guarantee the delivery of sensitive, mission critical data to organisations across Sussex Health Authority.

The Solution
Mark Walker and Bruce Wright, two consultants at Sussex HIS were looking to build a solution that could implement and troubleshoot wired and wireless networks, VPNs, dial-ins and intrusion protection systems.

They worked with PTC, a leading Network tools consultancy and solution supplier, to build a blueprint for the future. A number of competitive solutions were trialled, but Network Instruments proved to be the winner.

Karen Dodson, Managing Director, PTC explained; Network Instruments’ Observer is the best network monitoring and analysis tool there is. It was built from the bottom up to meet the variable needs of organisations. Its beauty is its ability to hang modules off the core solution to meet differing needs of departments or seasonal fluctuations for example. It makes life very easy.

Prior to working with PTC we took the objective decision to purchase a low-end product from a competitor. We trialled the solutions with our General Practitioners, but it soon became clear that it was unable to handle Gigabit traffic without drops, explained Mark Walker, Consultant, Sussex HIS.

The Observer Suite offered powerful application and expert analysis, MultiHop analysis, and SNMP device management as its primary analyser.

In addition to this Sussex HIS also deployed 15 Gigabit Advanced Probes across its network and a Gigabit Observer Suite System (GOSS) to provide portable, all-in-one field service solution.

Network Visibility
A high number of third party applications are hosted and run over the Sussex HIS WAN. Because these are not managed in-house it is vital that Sussex HIS has complete visibility to ensure they are no impacting negatively on network flow and to enable potential problem diagnosis to be performed.

Of key concern was a new digital image archival system which Sussex HIS was implementing to replace traditional X-ray machines. The picture-archiving vendor told the team they would need to invest in Gigabit WAN links to ensure performance. However, Observer was able to test the network and established that the existing 100MB links were sufficient.

“Analysis showed that the need for more Gigabit WAN links was only necessary on rare occasions,” Walker explained. “Observer has given us immediate ROI by proving we don’t need to go and invest in these huge links.

In addition, Observer’s MultiHop Analysis tracks conversations through multiple segments, hops and routes, which allows the team to determine faults occurring on the applications and networks of the various organisations that make up Sussex Health Authority.

“With MultiHop Analysis, we can track all the way to the data path. This is invaluable to us because we are able to trace application and network faults,” Wright explained. “It enables us to easily identify where the problem is, or who the problem is with. On many occasions it has allowed us to granularly identify exactly what a problem is with a specific supplier. This saves a lot of time and money because we’re able to save on consultancy fees.”

The Business Case
Wright and Walker initially used Observer to help them understand their network environment and then to establish the exact reasons for performance issues.

They also used the integrated wireless and VoIP functions to build a business case for encrypting vulnerable areas on the Sussex HIS network. With Observer’s VoIP interface, it was easy to capture data and reconstruct phone calls to ensure future compliance and regulation.

“There were arguments against investing in encryption technologies,” Walker explained. “This was resolved quickly when we were able to prove to the customer and the supplier the security issues surrounding unencrypted voice and why the investment was needed.”

The Future
Sussex HIS continues to use Observer and is currently reviewing the Observer Reporting Server with a view to providing customer facing reports on security and performance. They have also convinced clients to purchase the Observer solution for end-to-end analysis.

Walker said implementing the Network Instruments solution was simple: “It is one of the easiest analyser technologies I have come across. It is literally plug and go – very little preliminary work, very intuitive analysis.”

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