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Greyhound leaves the networking to support service.

How do you manage a critical network when the computing center is in Iowa, corporate headquarters are scattered around Texas, and you have locations in over 230 cities?

If you're Greyhound, you build a new enterprise-wide network around modular routers with built-in network management capabilities.

Then you complement your small network management staff with a unique backup support service from the hardware vendor.

Greyhound, the nation's largest intercity bus company, keeps its fleet of over 3700 buses on the move with an IBM 3090 mainframe and a Tandem midrange system at its Iowa Data Center in Des Moines. The mainframe handles all accounting scheduling and the Tandem performs fare processing functions.

But computing at the Dallas headquarters is not so cut and dried. The company recently divided headquarters into five buildings around Dallas, creating a logistical nightmare for interconnecting all the corporate LANs and computer resources into one cohesive network that can be managed by a small staff of eight people.

Further, the company's previous network--a 250-workstation LAN supported by five file servers--was unreliable and plagued by network failures. The company suffered from chronic cable problems, and its LAN directory structure, menu system, and administration system were inadequate.

To overcome this challenge, Greyhound had to make some changes. It converted its corporate LANs from an ARCnet to token ring backbone and from coax to twisted pair cabling.

It also upgraded the LAN operating system to NetWare 386 and added file servers to improve performance.

MAN to WAN

The most important change involved linking all the corporate LANs in a MAN (metropolitan area network) using CrossComm ILAN routers, which also provided WAN connections to the Iowa Data Center and a DOS-based network management software, called the IMS (ILAN Management System).

Although Greyhound evaluated PC-based routing bridges to do the job, it decided to use ILAN instead because it was a modular, stand-alone router that could interconnect multiple token ring LANs and WANs in a single unit.

From a network management perspective, this configuration offers several advantages. With one ILAN, the company could provide the connectivity of three to four conventional bridges or routers, providing both LAN and multiple, high-speed T1 connections to the Iowa Data Center and throughout the Dallas MAN.

A stand-alone router was also less risky, for both security and reliability, than a PC-based solution.

"We have a lot of people and sites to support down here," says Mike Wilson, manager of Greyhound's distributed systems.

"Anything we could do to reduce the liability of a PC--such as failed monitors, faulty system boards, or crashed disk drives--would improve our chances of keeping the LAN, MAN, and WAN up and running.

"PC-based bridges also have keyboards, making them a security risk," he adds.

In addition, since each ILAN module was a "plug and play" board, Wilson could install or change the system without programming, genning (configuring a device for a particular network or application), or setup configuration.

"We can automatically upgrade from 4 Mb/s to 16 Mb/s token ring at any time by simply installing a new module," he says.

Wilson and his staff manage the entire internet from a central console in Dallas through the IMS. With this PC program, they can monitor circuit connections and control lines, and gather management data. This information also helps Wilson determine how well the WAN's T1 circuits are being utilized and predict if they will run out of bandwidth in the future.

Since each ILAN has a built-in modem and special remote management software, staff members can check the status of any subnetwork at any time from any location.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Words:598
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