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ATM swims to strong showing in trans-Atlantic trial.

A recently-completed trial put ATM to the test in a trans-Atlantic, undersea fiber application involving Tandem Computers (company) Tandem Computers - A US computer manufacturer.

Quarterly sales $544M, profits $49M (Aug 1994).
 and two other users.

The 18-month trial involved Tandem, an unnamed financial institution (they are such secretive people) and a company described as a "media industry specialist." All three worked with Cable & Wireless (C&W) in the trial.

Tandem linked its European customer support applications into the company's main databases in Austin, Texas. For the trial, Tandem replaced an existing frame relay A high-speed packet switching protocol used in wide area networks (WANs). Providing a granular service of up to DS3 speed (45 Mbps), it has become popular for LAN to LAN connections across remote distances, and services are offered by most major carriers.  circuit and boasted big improvements in response times when it came to dealing with online customer inquiries.

Tandem's customer support system is a critical application for the company's European operations. Inquiries are routed through centers in Germany and the Netherlands into a European Customer Support Centre near Heathrow, England.

With the transmission delays on the existing frame relay link, the system sometimes "timed out" before the customer's inquiry was dealt with.

"Network latency is a vitally sensitive issue when you're dealing with international LAN (Local Area Network) A communications network that serves users within a confined geographical area. The "clients" are the user's workstations typically running Windows, although Mac and Linux clients are also used.  connections," observes Warren Kirsch kirsch  
A colorless brandy made from the fermented juice of cherries.

[French, short for German Kirschwasser; see kirschwasser.
, information services See Information Systems.  director for Tandem, "especially if you've got a customer hanging on the phone waiting for a response to a problem."

The service through the C&W ATM link, Kirsch says, "has been of the highest level."

Tandem also used the link for monthly transfers of server reconfiguration data. The 1.75-gigabyte file transfers used to take 14 hours and required staffers to work on weekends to monitor the operation. With ATM, the data transfer took under two hours in most cases.

Patrick Tilley, project manager for C&W, says the carrier felt the best way to gain experience with ATM was to work with customers who "throw up new problems." The trial involved a 45 Mb/s (T3 rate) linkage using the PTAT PTAT Proportional to Absolute Temperature (electronic circuit transistor biasing)
PTAT Private Trans-Atlantic Telecommunications
PTAT Pesticides, Toxics and Air Team
PTAT Pharmacy Technician Assessment Test
 U.S.-to-Britain undersea fiber cable, shared by the customers in the trial.

The trial tested ABR (1) (AutoBaud Rate detect) The analysis of the first characters of a message to determine its transmission speed and number of start and stop bits.

(2) (Available Bit R
, VBR (1) See MP3 VBR.

(2) (Variable Bit Rate) Refers to a communications or computer channel that changes its transmission speed based on any number of criteria.
 and CBR (1) (Computer-Based Reference) Reference materials accessible by computer in order to help people do their jobs quicker. For example, this database on disk!

(2) (Constant Bit Rate) A uniform transmission rate.
 (available, variable and constant bit rate) services, including compressed voice using VBR. Among applications for the various users were LAN-TO-LAN links, multimedia video on demand, broadcast video and intra-company voice.

Putting ATM over the 45 Mb/s link did not cause any bottlenecking, assures Gian Dilawari, senior VP of engineering and information systems for C&W.

That is because C&W was very selective when it chose ATM switches for the trial, Dilawari says, especially when it came to their implementation of buffering and flow control. The carrier used StrataCom BPX BPX Business Process Expert
BPX Business Process eXcellence (Delphi Group event)
BPX Burning Plasma Experiment
BPX British Petroleum Exploration
BPX Broadband Packet Exchange
BPX Bus Parcel Express (Canada) 
 and IPX (Internetwork Packet EXchange) The network layer protocol in the NetWare operating system. Similar to the IP layer in TCP/IP, it contains a network address and allows messages to be routed to a different network or subnet.  switches.

"There is not necessarily one major driver for ATM," Dilawari says, with the trial customers finding many appropriate applications. "We learned there is fairly good demand for this trans-Atlantic type of traffic. Some customers are very eager to go into service with this."

However, Charlie Thompson, in marketing communications for C&W, explains that "The purpose of the trial was to do tests and establish the feasibility and logistics of offering a commercial service. All that data will be analyzed with a view to considering the options available to us."

What that boils down to is that for the moment the carrier has no concrete plans to convert the trial into a commercial service offering. They're not saying it won't become a commercial service, just that they can't gauge when it might.

The carrier is doing some other ATM trials around the globe, but most are domestically contained.

"Obviously the trial allowed us to get behind the hype of ATM and start to see more of the true usage," Tilley concludes. "I think you will see certain sectors that will be early adopters of ATM. It is a question of whether there is pentup demand because we have not had this wide area broadband capacity in the past.

"I think that is why we will start seeing early adopters with business-critical applications they are looking to roll out into the wide area. It is then a question of how quickly that rolls out to more than those niche sectors."
COPYRIGHT 1996 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Technology Information; Cable and Wireless conducts test
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Date:May 1, 1996
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