* Ontario’s Smart Systems for Health Agency (SSHA) has signed a $30-million, 10-year deal with Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co. to offer data centre and IT infrastructure services for its emerging province-wide healthcare network. Floor space in two HP centres has been leased.

* “”More

than three or four”” vendors answered the SSHA’s request for proposals, according to says Linda Weaver, the SSHA’s chief technology officer. The agency opted for HP because it was “”well ahead of the pack,”” she says. “”We were looking essentially for a best-of-breed data centre provider.”” A number of different vendors are involved in the overall project.

* The data centre will play a key role in the agency’s mandate to build a single network for Ontario health care providers, including doctors, hospitals and pharmacies. The agency operates at arms length from the Ministry of Health to ensure privacy and started building its IT infrastructure in 2001. Over the next five to seven years, more than 200,000 users in 24,000 locations throughout the province will have access to the network. Secure e-mail, database and other applications will be available.

* The major challenge facing Weaver comes from thinking big. “”The complexity is the size,”” she says. “”There aren’t many e-mail systems being designed for 200,000 users.”” Reliability and security are essential, she adds. During the widespread power outage of the summer of 2003, HP kept its services running smoothly with backup generators. “”We had people inside doing tests when the blackout occurred and they didn’t even know about it until the end of their shift.””

* With different companies handling different parts of the project, concerns over proprietary information came up from time to time. “”We often had to bring competitors into the same room,”” she says. “”They got over that pretty quickly, though.””

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