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Washington Research Library Consortium: a well-educated network.

Improved access to research information, cost containment, cooperative collection management, and book preservaion--these activities are all made possible for the members of the Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC) by a newly installed network and computing center.

The WRLC, located in Lanham, Md., provides its eight university members with a shared online library catalog and administrative system using IBM mainframe hardware and the NOTIS Library Management System software.

The common database and universitywide network of the WRLC permits an individual student or faculty member at any of the participating universities to search the holdings of all eight libraries with a single command.

The WRLC faced an immediate challenge when network design began. Many of the member libraries already had automated cataloging systems in place. These were often based on proprietary minicomputer systems using a variety of existing networks (IBM SNA, DEC, TCP/IP, AT&T, ISN) to attach asynchronous and synchronous terminals, personal computers, and LANS.

A special requirements was the need for the network and its terminal equipment to support the American Library Association (ALA) ASCII character set which incorporates diacritic marks and other special symbols used when cataloging library materials. The ALA character set is implemented using a special model of the IBM 3164 ASCII display terminal, and programming support within the IBM 7171 ASCII protocol converter.

At the time the network was designed, there was much uncertainty about transaction volume, number of remote sites, types of devices, etc. The network had to be flexible enough to accommodate these unknowns, support all of the communication protocols used throughout each member university, have sufficient capacity to meet very large growth requirements in the future, and still be affordable during the start-up years of the system.

It required the capability to absorb additional uses as well as new libraries which might join the consortium. The WRLC sought to achieve a solution which would remain open to new technologies, and data and full text of library materials. Modems and leased analog lines would provide only a short-term solution, with expected system development requiring greater bandwidth and a more open architecture.

The WRLC selected CASE/Datatel Inc.'s approach, incorporating the firm's line of DCX asynchronous statistical multiplexers, and its DCP line of digital T-1 and DDS network equipment. Communication circuits and CO-based multiplexing services are provided by the Chesapeake and Potomac (C&P) telephone company.

The CASE/Datatel equipment provides the interface between a variety of communication controllers at the WRLC computer center and the wide area network. Two T1 (1.544 mb/s) links connect the WRLC site to a C&P CO, where the T1 signals are demuxed into 56k or 9.6k component circuits.

From the CO, the links are implemented as individual DDs circuits to campus locations throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Feeding the T1 multiplexers are IBM 3745, 3174, and 7171 controllers. Six 7171 protocol converters provide over 380 async terminal ports operating at speeds of 9.6k or 19.2k. These ports are distributed throughout the network via two DCX 840 communication processors, which also provide network management support for the asynchronous ports and the T1 multiplexers.

The DCX provides comprehensive menu-driven network diagnostics, configuration, performance information for the entire network from the IBM controllers to the central office.

The T1 links between the WRLC host site and the COs provide an economical way to support large volumes of synchronous and asynchronous data.

Leased 56 kb/s lines between the universities and the CO provided the bandwidth needed--more lines will be added as required.

Although the network encompasses two states and the District of Columbia, all COs reside in the same LATA, yielding economic advantages.

This configuration creates a tariff structure where each T1 line costs less than three 56 kb/s leased lines.

It provides cost-efficient network operation today and ensures bandwidth availability tomorrow.

The DCP 9100 multiplexers, while interfacing between the host site and the T1 links, provide a special solution for two member universities. Georgetown and George Washington Universities already had automated library applications, and each wanted to add the flexibility of WRLC connectivity while continuing to use their existing network systems.
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Title Annotation:Shared Services
Author:Whitman, Carl
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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