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Best minds behind ISDN are users.


What energy there is in ISDN today is coming from users. Those who see what it can do for them are putting their minds to work.

"Vendors, because they have put so much money into development and because integration is going so slowly, are getting burned out," says Mary Johnston Turner of Northeast Consulting Resources.

"Vendors are starting to let users drive the market. Maybe that's good, because then they'll stop messing around with things people don't want and start working on things people are interested in."

One creative user is Pratt & Whitney, the aircraft engine maker in Hartford, Conn., which has tested ISDN in a 5ESS switch-based centrex environment, connecting a five-site campus.

Besides extending local area networks, P&W used ISDN on its production floors where, Turner says, it had diagnostic gear that it wanted plugged into a network. But it needed equipment in different places at different times.

"The whole floor is wired for ISDN," she said. "Pick up your machine, run down and plug it into the next jack without fancy rewiring or recabling. It gave them mobility."

Another application P&W is looking at would use ISDN for dial-up video to help fix aircraft engines. Engineers at P&W could view an engine remotely and possibly diagnose problems without removing and shipping the part.

At the University of West Virginia, ISDN was evaluated in LAN interconnections. "They tested ISDN as a LAN bridge between some of their educational, scientific, and engineering computing centers," said Turner. "These are heavy-duty users. They tested every B channel configuration you can imagine."

The bad news: ISDN did clog up when data rates got intense.

"The folks trying to do big file transfers saw extensive degradation, to the point where it was unacceptable. The prototype bridges tend to shift all traffic onto the first B channel, and weren't too intelligent about when to shift to alternate B channels.

"They had one line all jammed up and nothing on the other ones. They improved the situation by working on a load balancing algorithm."

ISDN will stay "just over the horizon" for the next couple of years, says Turner:

"We have some real implementation problems, the biggest being that local exchange and interexchange SS7 integration is going real slowly."

Her call: no full interconnection among major metropolitan areas until 1992 or 1993, and nationwide, 1995 at the earliest.

"If you have a pressing application that you have to deploy in the next 18 to 24 months nationwide, don't look to ISDN. It's not going to be there," Turner said. "If you are considering ISDN, it is important to think about it in the long-term perspective."

But some users have to say no because they just can't wait for the long-term. General Electric is one.

"AT&T told GE they could save $3.9 million with ISDN centrex. GE said no, the products aren't stable and mature enough for them right now, and vendor support is shaky because they're a big company and they need it all across the country. Integration will be difficult and about the only thing you say about ISDN and network management is that there isn't much."
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Title Annotation:ISDN Forum
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:column
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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