Hospital group snares first IP voice deal

Hospital group snares first IP voice deal

A group of Victorian IT businesses has defeated IBM and Compaq in a $15 million hospital integration deal touted as one of Australia's first serious converged IP voice and data projects.

Spread over five years, the contract will see members of the Olympic Technology buying group (a Division of Z-Tek Computer), Countrywide Technologies and reseller partner Com Tech supply and integrate a new networking and desktop infrastructure across 12 Victorian hospitals.

The customer, known as the South West Alliance of Rural Hospitals, collectively offered the tender for a new networking and desktop infrastructure to replace its existing "dumb terminal"-based systems.

The hospital alliance reports the desktop component is worth $2.5 million, while the networking equipment is worth between $5 and $10 million.

Gary Drewitt, a driving figure in the South West Alliance of Rural Hospitals, said the deal will see the hospitals take a leading-edge role in the rollout of IP voice technology.

"We're the first major organisation to go this way," he said.

"We have eight or nine hospitals that will start using [IP voice] this year."

Drewitt said the alliance is aiming for consistent standards in health service delivery and hopes to overcome any integration difficulties by adopting a gradual migration strategy over the next three years.

Com Tech is currently in the process of installing a wide area network based on an ISDN backbone, microwave links, which also boasts an IP cloud capable of IP telephony and IP videoconferencing.

"Cisco is very keen to make sure it is successful," Drewitt said.

According to Com Tech account manager David Guest, the hospitals are using Cisco's Selsius technology for IP telephony and microwave equipment from AAPT in conjunction with Ericsson.

"We've started moving into the voice space and competing with PABX vendors. The interesting thing is we won," Guest commented.

According to Z-Tek Computer's national sales and marking manager, Doug Harry, the win demonstrates the ability of smaller channel companies to defeat the dominant industry players.

"We want to tell the channel you can beat IBM, Compaq and the other guys," he said.

The alliance secured the win based on its ability to supply cost-effective equipment and offer strong local support with one call centre number to manage all hardware and software enquiries, according to Harry.

In addition to the call centre, Countrywide and Olympic Technology are providing a Lotus Notes-based asset tracking system and a standard operating environment, as determined by the hospitals.

Harry said Com Tech and the alliance are liaising closely to make sure the integration runs smoothly. "The challenge is to maintain a consistent quality rollout," he said.

"We're just waiting for Com Tech to finish the infrastructure before we roll out the servers."

He said the alliance is most likely to use Compaq Intel-validated servers, which are expected to be running on-site by December.

Four Countrywide stores - Hamilton, Warrnambool, Camperdown and Colac -will now supply over 1000 computers and associated peripherals such as Lexmark printers, with 100 PCs installed to date. The hospital is also considering the introduction of thin-client terminals next year for some specific applications, such as viewing patient records.

The alliance is also contracting out the cabling, telephone and videocon-ferencing work to smaller regional companies.

Spokesperson Rob Van den Eynde said Countrywide's own alliance was formed by regional computer compan-ies which together with Olympic Technology believe they can achieve bigger deals when presented as a large group. "The idea was to gain better buying power, exchange ideas, discuss technology and sales issues, host guest speakers and advertise as a group," he said.

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