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'Shownet' is Texas-sized LAN.

'SHOWNET' IS TEXAS-SIZED LAN

Twenty-five thousand data processing and telecommunications decision makers and network managers from around the world connected at the Dallas Convention Center recently for NetWorld 90.

It is likely you, or someone from your organization, attended the three-day exposition devoted to local area network technology.

Setting NetWorld 90--billed as one of the world's largest--apart from hundreds of other trade shows was its Texas-size communications network infrastructure.

Dubbed "ShowNet," the network spanned the entire exposition, interconnected the booths and common areas, and supported 100 exhibitors' functioning equipment--four electronic mail networks with the capability to facsimile materials throughout the U.S.; bulletin boards; 250 computers; peripherals; printers; telephones; and 100 interactive information kiosks on the show floor and at the attendees' hotels--all linked to the same network.

More than serving as the communications highway for the show, the network was conceptualized and implemented to demonstrate a solution to the real challenges of connecting diverse products that are faced today by network managers worldwide.

The cabling remained in place after the show, making the Dallas Convention Center wire-ready for years to come.

Incompatible Protocols

"The needs presented by NetWorld 90's exhibitors and attendees provided us with an ideal testbed. They required simple, effective ways to interact and interchange with each other. Really, a quite typical scenario representative of the needs of virtually any large, diverse organization," observed Mark Tebbe, president of Lante Corp., the Chicago-based systems integration and consulting firm selected by Bruno Blenheim Inc., the show management company, to construct ShowNet.

"We delivered a real-time, mission-critical network solution which demonstrated the integration of products from many different, and sometimes competing companies. With it, we proved that using our industry's various standards and open interfaces, interoperability is clearly possible.

"The demand for network-ready facilities such as the Dallas Convention Center is about to explode," he said.

Putting It All Together

"Many MIS organizations are called upon to satisfy the needs of departments that have their own computing requirements and standards, but must ultimately communicate and share resources with the entire organization. Seamlessly interconnecting the departments of a large organization is rarely simple and easy. The proliferation of multivendor, multistandard, multimachine environments are a fact of life for anyone who seriously wants to compete effectively," said John Meyer, consulting manager with Lante.

A number of manufacturers--all exhibitors--provided equipment and collaboration. Among those chosen to be major participants were two operating areas of AT&T: AT&T Computer Systems and AT&T Network Systems.

"We knew that the success of this project would be anchored by a vendor which provided networked solutions designed around open systems and industry standards, and AT&T possessed the installation expertise to put it together," Meyer said.

Roger Fields, AT&T Computer Systems, explained his organization's role:

"We supplied 6386/SX EL computers, StarLAN 10 network NAUs and hubs for access to a wide variety of electronic mail packages, including PMX/StarMAIL, AT&T Computer Systems' E-Mail offering LANs, and special programs of information about the show and a lead tracking facility."

Network Design

Just as ShowNet was not a single operating system, twisted pair wiring was not solely used as the medium to support network connections, because of distance limitations.

To wire the necessary distances, and support data traffic, AT&T installed a fiber backbone. No small feat, since the backbone ran the entire length of both floors of the Convention Center--nearly the size of 16 football fields. In addition, the fiber had to be installed in a domed arena which is part of the Convention Center complex, connected to the main facility by ducts.

Individual network connections were supported with AT&T's unshielded twisted pair segments running from six distribution areas off the fiber backbone--in effect, entirely wiring the Dallas Convention Center.

AT&T Network Systems provided the fiber optic cable and installed the fiber backbone--which was key for interconnecting various locations at the Convention Center.

"For backbone connectivity, we used a combination of AT&T Lightguide Building Cable and associated premises equipment, including FDDI jumpers and ST II connectors, cables and jumpers," said Jim Varga, an AT&T Network Systems national sales manager.

"Our involvement was compressed into a relatively tight time frame," recalled Varga, who first was contacted by Fields at AT&T Computer Systems less than two months before the start of the show. "Miles of cable were needed quickly to assure the integrity of the ShowNet."

The requirements for connectivity evolved on a daily basis. To meet those requirements meant that test samples had to be delivered overnight to Lante personnel responsible for equipment testing.

Culminating more than two and one half effort years to design and install, helped along by over 400 hours of phone conversations with more than 200 people collaborating, the network was operating several days before the show opened.

Jim Dobyns, a Lante consultant, credits AT&T with a pivotal role. "Although AT&T is not well known as a supplier of services for this facet of the communications market, ShowNet proved that AT&T is a peerless technology provider of networking infrastructures," he said.

"We fielded a team of AT&T Network Systems installation personnel," said Varga, "to configure, terminate, install, and test more than two miles of fiber strands and 20 miles of unshielded twisted-pair copper wiring to support all the necessary connections for ShowNet."

Added Lante's John Meyer: "The installation personnel remained on site after the show started--almost around the clock--to ensure connectivity and to accommodate changes."

"We're confident," said Mark Tebbe of Lante, "that each attendee returned to his or her respective industry with a new respect for the growing number of solutions and options available for supporting multiple network protocols and multivendor networking products over a large-scale network."
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:local area network
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Words:956
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