Two years ago, DEC undertook a survey of Fortune 1000 senior non-technical managers and their European equivalents. The results made depressing reading for a company committed to networking. One of the managers stated that any vendor who claims to deliver network capability is clearly lying, and, according to DEC UK’s market development group manager David […]
Two years ago, DEC undertook a survey of Fortune 1000 senior non-technical managers and their European equivalents. The results made depressing reading for a company committed to networking. One of the managers stated that any vendor who claims to deliver network capability is clearly lying, and, according to DEC UK’s market development group manager David Clarke, the other respondents were equally cynical about being able to tie their computers and telecommunications equipment together in the foreseeable future. Worse still, when asked who they thought offered the best hope of eventually delivering networking capability, the US managers’ named IBM and AT&T, while their European counterparts went for IBM and the major local supplier – ICL in the UK, Siemens in Germany, Bull in France. DEC hardly rated a mention. Now, says Clarke, the managers, although still sceptical, recognise that networks and networking are a corporate necessity, and they now perceive DEC as the market leader because of its demonstrably superior products. Grandiose Customers, in Clarke’s view, want a free and easy flow of information in a transparent network that is easily controlled and easy enough for users to understand without retraining. The answer, he says, lies in standards. One, at least, of the respondents to this year’s survey agreed: stan-dardisation is essential if the true potential of multi-vendor networking is to be realised. The DEC solution lies in the integration of the ISO Open System Interconnection standards into the Digital Network Architecture. Layers one to four of the OSI model have already been incorporated into DECnet – DECnet is the imple-mentation of DNA – and in the next phase of DNA, to be known as DNA/OSI Phase V to reflect the importance of OSI, DEC aims to work primarily on layers five, six and seven – session, presentation, and application. In its somewhat grandiosely en-titled Strategic Network Vision, DEC has broken down Phase V into four categories: Unrestricted Connectivity, Interoperability, Distributed Capability and Manageability. Developments in the first category are designed eventually todeliver networks with millions of nodes, rather than with the upper limit of 64,000 as at present. The latest stage towards this end is the introduction of twisted pair Ethernet. Developed by DEC in association with 3Com Corp, twisted pair Ethernet allows users to choose any wiring scheme, including existing telephone cabling, to connect workstations while preserving the 10Mbits-per-second transmission rate of Ethernet. At a stroke, it will cut the cost of networking dramatically although it might also upset customers who have already installed expensive co-ax. Later this year, DEC will launch a server that links private telephone switches to Ethernet via an S2 interface. The first version available in the UK will connect Plessey’s ISDX to Ethernet. Eventually, DEC aims to support all PABXs with an S2 port. Other new products in the Unrestricted Connectivity category already announced are a European version of the Satellite Equipment Room Rack and an office communications cabinet. The Open Systems Interconnection model will not be fully defined until at least 1991. Indeed, that date is already beginning to look extremely optimistic and any move by the US National Security Agency to ask the International Standards Organisation to add an eighth, security, layer is likely to delay completion further. DEC, however, is not waiting for the full model even though it is one of the 10 companies that Computer Systems News says is helping the NSA development the security protocols. Instead, it is intending to offer proprietary solutions in the areas where standards are still missing. As the gaps are filled in, DEC will bring out separate OSI-conforming products. In time, it hopes to be able to merge the proprietary and OSI versions. Last month, ISO published standards for layer six and, at layer seven, for Association Control Service Elements and File Transfer Access and Management. And earlier this month, despite having its
own proprietary packages in both areas, DEC promised to deliver products implementing those standards within 12 months. VAX FTAM will allow transfer and management of files between VAXes and the outside world, while version 2 of Osak will implement presen tation at layer six and ACSE at layer seven. Version 1.0 currently covers only layer five – session – protocols. DEC has also announced an improved version of its ISO transport implementation, VOTS, for early delivery. DEC is determined not to be left behind in the increasingly desperate battle to attract customers to distributed processing. At the introduction of DNA/OSI Phase V, DEC announced electronic mail links between its All-In-One package and IBM’s SNADS and PROFS office system. Unix users on other vendors’ hardware will also be supported even if the eMail system they are using does not conform to X400. DEC also announced procedures, documentation and management services for implementing large global mail networks. Anytime, anywhere DEC also outlined DECnet System Services, a set of products designed to offer transparent access to data wherever it is on the network. Included in DSS are distributed file sharing; a sharer and manager of printing resources; a consistent file-naming programme; and a new version of the Remote System Manager which extents RSM capabilities to VAXes running over wide area networks or under DEC’s Unix offering, Ultrix. RSM obviously falls into the Manageability Category as well. In that category, DEC has also announced an Ethernet Encryption System consisting of a hardware controller and a layered VMS application that manages the operations of the controllers. So, where do all the announcements leave DEC? Definitely with one of the strongest product offerings in the networking field which, allied with the ability of all the VAX processors to run the same operating system – VMS – is likely to lead to DEC considerably extending its market share over the next few years. There are already 100,000 DECnet licences out there – more than three times the number for IBM’s SNA – and Ethernet, with which DEC is closely associated, is growing rapidly. Up until now, DEC’s networking strategy has been market driven. Now, however, it is promising to lead customer requirements. According to David Clarke, DEC is determined to provide customers with the ability to connect anything, anywhere, anytime.