Academic Medical Centre

It's a matter of life and death and every second counts

For a large-scale renovation of their server room, AMC enlisted the help of ICTroom. A complex project in which the sequence of activities was crucial. Two projects were to be carried out in parallel. The phased renovation of a computerroom and the migrating of existing systems. During the project, the highly critical computerroom just kept operational.

The Academic Medical Center (AMC) is in the field of academic medicine among the international elite. The AMC is one of the eight university medical centers in The Netherlands. In addition to the treatment of patients, the AMC performs medical research.

Upgrade computer room AMC

An important characteristic of a hospital is that it deals in matters of life and death and that every second counts, says Hans van den Berg, Head of Infrastructure Services at the AMC (Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam). “That's what makes the AMC different to a lot of other organizations. Suppose there's a serious traffic accident. An air ambulance with a doctor on-board will fly to the scene of the incident, but the pilot will then need to know what hospital he has to take the patient to. At such times the infrastructure needs to be infallible. What's more, the AMC doesn't just work in terms of office hours, because people are admitted to the hospital during the weekend as well. X-rays, MRI scans, blood screening carried out by the lab, all these things are done en masse. If something goes wrong with a system or the network, then the consequences could be dire. Patient admissions don't leave room for holidays or breaks. It's always business as usual here, and that's what makes a hospital so special.”

High uptime requirements

A total of around 10,000 people work on the grounds of the AMC. It is more or less a small village, and even features a supermarket and hairdresser's. Hans van den Berg: “Translated into systems, the AMC has 29,000 connections, 1,000 printers, 800 physical systems and 1,400 applications. 80% of this is intended for health care purposes, with the remainder being geared towards education and research. There is considerable diversity in terms of systems and applications. Our ICT department comprises 250 people and the systems, many of which have duplicates, are housed in three computer rooms. One of these rooms has now been renovated by ICTroom.”

High requirements are set for many of the systems, such that the AMC has many years of experience with working 24/7. “We're aiming to be even more customer-focused in our way or working. What this means in practice is that the opening times are being extended, as a result of which the ICT department will have to provide more support and for longer.

"It's a matter of life and death and every second counts"

One consequence of the requisite high uptime is that you can't just stop a computer room that needs renovating. A phased approach to the renovation work was therefore needed. This called for stringent requirements in terms of the way of working and necessitated a special action plan. “At the AMC there are two parties between whom the rules of the game have to be crystal clear”, explains Hans van den Berg. “They are Buildings Management and ICT. For that reason, the outset of the project entailed a great deal of time being spent on preparatory work and all tasks and responsibilities were clearly delineated. Buildings Management was assigned responsibility for everything up to the computer room and ICT took ownership of everything occurring within the computer room itself.”

Complex puzzle

Tom Visser is a Senior Data Centre Engineer at ICTroom. He states that the AMC's live environment bears a striking resemblance to a complex puzzle. “Designing and building a computer room or data centre is our business, and we're highly competent in this respect. Here, however, we were faced with two processes running in parallel. First of all there was the renovation of the room, which remained operational as usual throughout the project. In addition, there was the migration of systems, in each case being done as soon as part of the room was complete. No downtime was permissible, with patient safety being paramount at all times, so you really have to be absolutely certain you know what you're doing at all points in these two processes. Aside from the technical aspects involved in simultaneously implementing two processes, which already complicated matters, you're also faced with a need for a great deal of harmonization within the live environment of the AMC. A considerable number of parties are involved in this. All of which made it a pretty complex project.”