Baylor College of Medicine - CHAT

The Collaborative Healthcare Alliance for Technology (CHAT) is an unincorporated cooperative formed in 2000/2001 by the CIOs at Baylor College of Medicine (Baylor) and several other large organizations in the Texas Medical Center (TMC). This collaboration was created to leverage the combined buying power, and the associated volume of Internet-based services consumption, of those founding member institutions to drive Internet-related costs down for all CHAT participants.

Because of Baylor’s historical technical leadership role and involvement in the TMC, along with early involvement in the Internet and Internet2 networking communities, the CHAT CIOs asked Baylor to lead the CHAT consortium technically, financially and organizationally, a role in which the College has continued into the present day.

With more than a dozen current participants, the CHAT membership has experienced substantial growth over the years, and with that growth, has also seen Internet-based content consumption grow dramatically. With that consumption, even more per-unit cost reductions have resulted in many millions of dollars in savings to the participating organizations. In fact, prior to the formation of CHAT nearly two decades ago, the combined volume of Internet service consumed by the CHAT members was less than 40 megabits per second (Mbps).

Soon after CHAT came together and other TMC-based affiliates joined, the consumption quickly tripled, conferring immediate savings on the community. CHAT has enjoyed the same sort of growth in the intervening years and today, the community collaboration offers multiple, geographically diverse 10 gigabit per-second (Gbps) pathways to the commodity Internet, along with a 100 Gbps path to Internet2, largely funded by a 2015 NSF CC* grant, for the members who participate in Internet2.

In part because commodity Internet service pricing has fallen in the marketplace since CHAT’s inception, and partly because of the increased volume associated with the CHAT cooperative, CHAT has enjoyed a near-99 percent per-megabit cost reduction between the year 2000 and today. This cost savings is a direct result of the members’ enduring commitment to work together collaboratively, and their unified commitment to the same shared values and goals.

While delivering these dramatic cost savings, the CHAT collaboration has also significantly enhanced the geographic diversity and the equipment redundancy of the underlying infrastructure in the past 20 years. The aforementioned NSF grant helped to make some of that diversification and capacity enhancement possible, and today, CHAT enjoys three diverse points of presence (PoPs) in the TMC and another PoP at a premier colocation and content peering facility in the DFW area. All of this “organic” growth has been made possible through the power of aggregation, collaboration and resource sharing.

The CHAT community has worked in a highly integrated fashion with other partner organizations; perhaps the most impactful partnership has been with the SouthEast Texas GigaPoP (SETG). Not only has SETG been the upstream partner through which all CHAT-originated traffic passes in route to Internet2, but the members of CHAT move data (research, education, clinical and business-related) to and from SETG members organizations in a friction-free environment that never touches the commodity Internet, making for lower-latency, less complexity and inherently greater security.

CHAT and SETG have also worked very closely in the delivery of settlement-free peering and caching services, delivering many gigabits per second of valuable content for a small fraction of what typical commodity Internet services cost, while reducing latency and increasing security. This is yet another by-product of intentional collaboration and resource sharing, benefiting hundreds of thousands of faculty, staff and students at more than two dozen organizations throughout the southeast Texas region.

Baylor College of Medicine