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Broadband network to support many types, brands of terminals.

At the 1984 National Computer Conference, to be held July 9 to 16 in Las Vegas, NV, the Systems Div of Allen-Bradley Co, Highland Heights, OH, will perform their first public demonstration of a new broadband networking system called VistaNet.

According to Robert L Jones, supervisor of broadband communications products for the division, the new VistaNet products will allow a high-speed network that links multivendor equipment. This can include micro, mini, and mainframe computers, as well as industrial computers such as A-B's new Vista 2000 area controller.

"This will be a truly open, public type of netowrk," Jones said. "Its versatility will solve many problems for would-be users of plant-wide networks, and make their application much more desirable than in the past."

Development of VistaNet has been carried on partially in conjunction with the General Motors Assembly Div (GMAD), Jones said. Typically, a GMAD auto-assembly plant uses up to 200 baseband local-area networks such as Allen-Bradley's Data Highway.

"GM wanted to network entire plants," said Jones, "but unto now the costs have been prohibitive. Every time they went to renovate an old plant or build a new one, they had to automatically figure that half the total project cost would go for communications.

"The problem was twofold: a lack of standards, and a lack of a universal, open, public type of broadband networking system. Each make of PC, micro, mini, and so on had its own peculiar standards, and each required its own control engineering, wiring, connectors, power supply, and so on. A plant would literally end up with a babel of systems." Uses token passing

The new Allen-Bradley netowrking system will conform to the IEEE Standard 802.4, and will utilize a technique called token passing. In this technique, a special message or token in the form of a bit message--for instance, 01111110--is passed around the network to any terminal (it's called a node in networking) that wants to communicate.

After the user sets the sequence and priorities for all nodes on the network, the token is inserted onto the network channel and goes from node to node until one of them needs to transmit. This node then removes the token for a present length of time. Following transmission, the node reinserts the token onto the channel.

Allen-Bradley's new networking system will operate at 10 Mbps (megabits per second), using 12 MHz of bandwidth. When operating at 10 Mbps, the network will use the equivalent of two full cable TV (CATV) channel pairs. Any number of channels, each with its own assigned frequency, can operate on the available bandwidth. Hardware is standard

Much of the hardware to be used in the system--including the coaxial cable, taps, power supplies, and amplifiers--is the same as that currently used for cable TV. Allen-Bradley is now developing specialized components such as modems, head-end remodulators and switch gearboxes, gateway modules, and terminal-communications servers.

"The gateway modules will interface between the 10 Mbps broadband and the 57.6 Kbps of current Allen-Bradley PC baseband Data Highways," Jones explained. "The terminal-communications servers will support CAD/CAM systems, personal computers, word processors, and the like. Then any dumb terminal can be configured to communicate with any similar terminal on the network."

The company is also developing backplane interface cards that will allow direct access from the network to a plant's host computer and to other computers on the bus.

All components in the product line will be of the same industrial quality as Allen-Bradley PCs, Jones said. The components will be electrically hardened and will operate at 0 C to 60 C, in humidity up to 95 percent. The modules will be noncondensing; no cooling apparatus will be needed. Open architecture

According to Jones, VistaNet will utilize an open architecture that the company calls the Gold Book System Architecture, and follows the OSI Layered Model upon which IEEE 802.4 standards are being based.

Allen-Bradley, along with GM and other vendors, will demonstrate a broadband token-passing network at Las Vegas in July. Operating at 5 Mbps, the network will support several brands and types of electronic equipment.

VistaNet products will be available for delivery in February 1985, Jones said.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Apr 1, 1984
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