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New data network links travel islands in Caribbean.

A new data network is expected to be the ticket to success for the travel and hospitality industry throughout the Eastern Caribbean in the 1990s.

Tarex Gold, a multi-access data service enabling travel agents throughout the islands of the Caribbean to improve their communications with a variety of airline hosts, replaced its decade-old predecessor in 1990. Cable and Wireless plc continues to improve its upgraded network this year.

The network also distributes Tarex Caribnet, a managed data network service providing leased closed user group facilities for private customers, including local airlines.

How Tarex toils

Tarex Gold enables travel agents to book scheduled airline flights anywhere in the world and access the reservation systems of car-hire firms and hotel groups. The system's computer acts as a switch to the other databases and also does protocol conversion and message routing.

This gives up-to-date, accurate information on airline schedules and availabilities of other travel services by means of a single set of instructions. Another way it improves agent productivity is by automating the formerly manual task of writing passenger tickets. Consequently the agen can quickly obtain information, make reservations, have them confirmed and produce tickets and other travel paperwork.

Travel agency equipment consists of a network managed modem, cluster controller, visual display units, message printer, and a ticket printer.

"The customer is probably waiting while the agent attempts to do this work, so an early commitment in planning the upgraded network was that an agent should get a sub-three second response time to any inquiry," said Graham R. Cooper of London, Manager of Project Tarex.

"Because each host has its own 'language' used for making these bookings, the Tarex system provides a common language which is all the agents have to remember. That also improves productivity since it reduces the possibility of a delaying error during typing," Cooper said. "The software in the system translates the command according to which host the agent has actively connected."

Tarex Caribnet provides airlines with a managed data network to connect their own reservations office and airport terminals to their computer systems, and is suitable for many other privately managed data network applications.

Network overview

The network serves 17 nations and territories from its base in Barbados: San Juan (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico), St. Thomas and St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands), Tortola (British Virgin Islands), St. Maarten (Netherlands Antilles), Guadeloupe and Martinique (French West Indies), Antigua, Anguilla, St. Kitts, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, and Trinidad.

Satellite and submarine cable circuits connect the system to reservations databases in the Caribbean, North America and Europe.

A Stratus XA2000 continuous processing computer system in Barbados has a 32-bit fault tolerant architecture to double-check each calculation before it is enacted. There is duplication of all computer modules, processors, memory and disk systems. An automatic fault reporting and remote diagnostic link is provided.

The computer is linked by high speed circuits to the computer systems of Pan American Airlines, British Airways, KLM, BWIA (British West Indies Airways), LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport), and the UK-based Talon system servicing non-airline connections such as the Official Airline Guide, hotels, and car rental companies.

Other host systems connected include Air BVI, ALM, Winnair, and Air Martinique.

Racal-Milgo Communications Management Series network management hardware and software, including Line Quality Analysis, provide network control. Racal-Milgo modens (Omnimode 96 for the 9600 bps backbone and RM 242400 bps for each drop) are used over Digital Eastern Caribbean Microwave System.

"The CMS network management has enabled us, in a cost-effective manner, to oversee the complete connection from our switch to the travel agent's or airline's terminal equipment," Cooper said.

"The combination of the fault tolerant computer, the high availability of the Digital Eastern Caribbean Microwave System and the CMS network management give the Tarex Caribnet airlines the grade of service they require," adds John Slaytor, Manager Product Development and Marketing for Cable & Wireless Caribbean Regional Services in Barbados.

Down-line networking

Cable & Wireless chose the Novus Multi-Access System (MACS, originally developed for TIAS in Australia. Novus Systems Technology of England designed and managed the software development, specifically coding Tarex to emulate the predecessor Caribbean network. A smooth migration was achieved for agents by avoiding extensive retraining to use the new network.

"Tarex, based on the Novus MACS product, is providing Caribbean travel agents with the most up-to-date multi-access reservations system available today," said Andy Murray, Novus Senior Consultant.

"Three protocols were considered, ALC (Airline Link Control), X.25 (packet switching) and SNA (IBM Systems Network Architecture)," Cooper said. "It was finally decided that the ease of integrating the system was the predominant factor, so ALC was adopted for the down-line network," he explains.

"The next consideration was the optimum down-line rate for the multi-drop terminal network. Three types of modems were considered, the CCITT V.29, V.27 and V.26 (for line rates of 9600, 4800 and 2400 bits per second, respectively).

"It was determined that a typical short inquiry and response for eight locations on a line would have about one half second delay at all line rates. The reasons for the equal performance was that the higher line rate required a longer modem setup time.

"After careful review of the local line characteristics in the region, the lowest bit rate (2400) was selected for Tarex Gold," Cooper said. "Experience has shown this to be a correct decision."

"Profitable business networks of the 1990s will increasingly be multinational ones -- even in a defined geographical region," said Lynda C. Johnson, Racal-Milgo district sales manager for the Caribbean and Central America.

"This Cable & Wireless network clearly illustrates that trend and also demonstrates our capabilities in providing global networking solutions," she added.

The future

"A key factor during the specification and design of the new system was its expansion capabilities," Slaytor said. Unlike the system it replaced, it is not tied to the provision of a fixed and limited range of facilities and services."

"The MACS fully meets the Cable & Wireless requirements for a flexible and expandable system. New services and connections can easily be added to Tarex to ensure Caribbean users continue to receive the best possible automated travel service," confirmed Andy Murray of Novus.

"At the top of the list of new services is the soon to be available CHARMS (Caribbean Hotel Association Reservation and Management System), a reservation database system for Caribbean hotels that will be accessible by travel agents worldwide," Slaytor added.

Cooper said that currently work is being carried out by Novus on a number of developments and enhancements for the Tarex services. Plans are underway to make some functions of a new, private X.25 network, to be supplied and installed by Racal-Milgo, available to Tarex customers.

Cable & Wireless is a global communications carrier with franchises throughout the Caribbean.

Racal-Milgo is an international provider of communications networking systems and services.

Novus Systems Technology provides data communications and transaction processing systems, software and consultancy throughout the world, specializing in the airline and travel industries.
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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Title Annotation:Travel/Hospitality
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Words:1162
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